Though the Washington Huskies’ situation this week in Pac-10 Conference has a measure of desperation – needing a pair of wins in Arizona to stay in title contention it’s not as dire as what their cross-state rival Washington State is facing.
The Cougars have to work just to get on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Beating Arizona (21-4, 10-2 in the Pac-10) would be an upset the Cougars (17-8, 7-6) urgently need. As the conference’s fourth-place team, clearly they need an attention-grabbing win to impress the NCAA Tournament Committee.
But their timing is horrible. They might have to play the Wildcats without the team’s primary inside force, 6-foot-8, 255-pound DeAngelo Casto. He sprained his ankle Saturday against California and missed most of the second half. He also missed the first two days of practice this week.
We hope to get him taped up and into the workout tomorrow,” Cougars coach Ken Bone said. So at this time I’d say questionable for the game (Arizona) Thursday.”
Casto leads his team in rebounds (6.4) and blocks (38). He is third on the team in scoring at 11.2 points per game. He has also been particularly hot lately, hitting 19 of his last 22 shot attempts (86.4 percent). If he can’t go, that will mean less resistance for Arizona forward Derrick Williams, second in the Pac-10 scoring at 19.2 points per game.
If you’re not a shoe-in right now,” Bone said, every game is important.”
A victory would not only benefit the Cougars, but their West-of-the-Mountains rivals as well. The Huskies (17-7, 9-4), which dropped to third place after a three-game losing streak was started by the Cougars on Jan. 30, are scrambling to catch the Wildcats. They’d be mighty grateful for a Cougar upset drawing them one game closer to catching the Wildcats. The Huskies will be sending mental get-well missives to Casto and the Cougs.
Contrary to the prevailing sentiment, Washington is still not one of those shoe-in teams. They need more on their resume. They want the same thing the Cougars want. They have the same needs.
The Huskies have to begin with a win over Arizona State (9-15, 1-11) Thursday. The Sun Devils gave the Huskies their toughest challenge at home Jan. 22. Washington pulled away in the final minutes for a 88-75 victory.
We put ourselves in a hole,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. We’re not a lock for the NCAA Tournament. We have to go out and play well. At this point, that’s all we need to be concerned about.”
Washington State put itself in a deeper hole Thursday when it lost to Stanford at home. That’s the kind of loss that will haunt them. Bone said his team’s lack of consistency is due mainly to the fact that ”you’re always dealing with health issues.
Reggie Moore was injured (wrist) before the season began. DeAngelo sat out a game. Faisal Aden (knee) sat out a couple games,” Bone said. Right now, DeAngelo is out. Reggie is not 100 percent. Faisal hasn’t even been 90 percent all year with his knee issues. So that’s been the biggest challenge, trying to stay healthy.
It’s hard if you’re not at practice at least most every day and creating good consistent play. It’s hard to come out game night and be consistent and be solid.”
May be McMillan’s final shot at Washington
Jamelle McMillan, the Arizona State senior point guard from O’Dea High, will be facing the Huskies for the final time (unless they match up in the Pac-10 Tournament) Thursday. It’s not the way he would like to finish his final season but there will be new challenges for him.
I’ve maintained from the first time I met Jamelle as a young man that he would be successful and fruitful in whatever he decides to do,” Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. He’s somebody you want on your side. He’s somebody you enjoy being together with. He is unconditionally team-centered. Having been around basketball all his life, he knows what it takes.
If he chooses a career in basketball, he’ll be very successful. If he decides on something outside basketball, likewise, he will take all those personal characteristics and apply them very well.”
McMillan, son of Nate McMillan, leads the conference in assists-to-turnover ratio at 2.9-1. Over his past four games he is averaging 14.0 points and shooting 68.8 percent (11 of 16).
He’s anybody’s kind of player, anytime you have a guy who has the character that he has and is such a great leader,” Romar said. He’s just solid across the board. And a good basketball player.”
Notes/Quotes from around the league heading into a critical week:
Arizona State: Sun Devils have an eight-game losing streak, the longest for the program since ending the 2006 season with 14 straight losses … guard Trent Lockett has averaged 15.3 ppg. over his last six games.
Arizona: Wildcat Coach Sean Miller said what made Washington successful this season has been its rebounding.
They are the best rebounding team in the conference, offensively in particular,” Miller said. ‘They have a deep bench. They have athletic frontcourt players. Lorenzo does a real good job of making that a staple of his team and program. Their ability to get second shots can really break your back.
At the other end, you are constantly in a dilemma where, if you miss, you can’t get a second one yourself. When they’re rebounding at their best, they are a very hard team to beat.
Secondly, they play at a great pace. They can break the game out in spurts. In my mind, that comes down to Isaiah Thomas, who’s just a terrific point guard.”
California: An informal poll among several coaches mention forward Allen Crabbe as the top freshman of the year. He is averaging 12 points a game. UCLA center Josh Smith, from Kentwood High, also is mentioned and WSU Coach Ken Bone was quick to add UW guard Terrence Ross to the short list … Crabbe is coming off a concussion suffered in the Washington game. Coach Mike Montgomery said he expects him to play this week … G Jorge Gutierrez, who had 24 points last Thursday against the Huskies, is averaging 19.8 points over the past six games … point guard Brandon Smith has 25 assists and four turnovers over his past four games.
Oregon: After going through the first couple months with a variety of starting lineups, first-year coach Dana Altman has kept to the same unit in five of the past seven games…the Ducks have won five of their last seven games … “Oregon is one of the hottest teams in the league right now,” said UCLA Coach Ben Howland, who played Oregon last Thursday. They’re really playing well.”
Oregon State: Sophomore guard Jared Cunningham has 71 steals. That’s enough for sixth on the single-season steals list with a minimum of six games remaining. That’s also the most steals in the program since Brent Barry had 72 in 1994-95. Cunningham has six games with at least five steals.
Stanford: Junior guard Jeremy Green, who had 24 points against the Huskies Saturday, has scored at least 20 points in each of his last four games. He has made 15 of 27 attempts (55.6 percent). That’s a credit to his work ethic, to his dedication to the game,” Cardinal coach Johnny Dawkins said. A lot of guys find out more from adversity than any other thing. It has made him a better player.” … guard Jarrett Mann had a career-high 11 assists against Washington State last Thursday. He is averaging 6.6 assists over his last five games.
UCLA: The Bruins have won nine of the last 10 games … they have held their last five opponents under 40 percent shooting, 37.5 percent … guard Malcolm Lee is averaging 17.6 points over his last seven games.
USC: Center Nikola Vucevic is fourth in the conference in scoring at 16.9 and first in rebounding at 10.1. He also is fourth in blocks (1.3 per game) and second in minutes played, 34.6. Here’s the one thing I’ll say about Nik,” USC Coach Kevin O’Neill said. If we didn’t have Nik, we’d have four wins overall. That’s just the way it is. He’s a very, very valuable part of our team. If we didn’t have him, we’d be in serious trouble.” … Maurice Jones has 95 assists, most among Pac-10 freshmen.
Washington State: Guard Klay Thompson has 1,538 career points. He needs 26 for third place all-time in the Cougar record books … WSU is seventh nationally in field-goal defense at 38.7 percent.