SEATTLE - The Washington State Cougars have played in better basketball games.
More important basketball games.
More exciting basketball games.
Rarely, though, have the Cougars played better during the most important and exciting parts of a basketball game than they did Sunday night in an 80-69 Pacific-10 Conference victory over Washington.
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“U-Dub has such a great home-court advantage,” WSU coach Ken Bone said. “Their students do a great job.
“To win in this building, you’ve got to be really locked in and focused. I think our guys were exactly that.”
The Cougars, reeling from a dismal performance in a loss at last-place Arizona State last weekend, held a players-only meeting during the week.
Plus a meeting with players and coaches.
Plus a meeting with fiery WSU baseball coach Donnie Marbut.
“Just really getting focused,” WSU point guard Reggie Moore said. “We got down as a team and really got our goals together.”
“You could see it in some people’s eyes; the focus was there,” WSU post DeAngelo Casto said.
The Cougars, who have melted away in numerous pressure situations the past two seasons, responded with big plays time and time again when the explosive Huskies threatened to make key runs.
“We desperately needed it (the win) ... I thought the week off helped us refocus,” Bone said.
The Cougars, consistently inconsistent during the Pac-10 season, evened their league record at 8-8. They finish conference play at home Thursday against USC and Saturday against UCLA.
Sunday’s victory prevented WSU from slipping into a sixth-place tie with Oregon. The Cougars remain alone in sixth, and the top-six finishers in the Pac-10 earn first-round byes in the Pac-10 tournament, March 9-12 in Los Angeles.
First things first, Moore said. He is, after all, focused.
“We’ve got to finish out the (league) season,” he said. “We’ve got to get two more wins.”