Washington State has already clinched its best Pac-10 finish in 24 seasons. The Cougars, though, need one more win to secure the second seed in the conference tournament.
The 13th-ranked Cougars look to clinch their first top-two finish in the Pac-10 since 1983 when they host No. 23 Southern California on Saturday.
With a win over USC, Washington State will finish two games ahead of the Trojans in the conference. A loss, however, would give the Cougars and USC identical 12-6 records, with the tiebreaker going to the Trojans.
The Cougars (23-6, 12-5) have lost two of their last three, including a 53-45 defeat to No. 2 UCLA on Thursday. Washington State held the Bruins more than 20 points below their season average, but managed season lows of 45 points and 37.5 percent shooting.
Derrick Low, Washington State’s leading scorer at 13.4 points per game, scored two on 1-for-8 shooting Thursday, and the Cougars missed nine of their 10 3-point attempts.
Kyle Weaver, shooting 57.6 percent in his last five games, led the Cougars with 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Washington State, though, couldn’t overcome UCLA’s 9-0 run to open the second half.
“We were just trying to play good basketball,” Weaver said. “When you get down eight or 10, it feels like 20 against a good team.”
The Cougars will match up against another good team Saturday when they face USC, Washington State’s third ranked opponent in four games. The Trojans (21-9, 11-6), though, are just 3-3 in their last six games, including an 85-70 loss to Washington on Thursday.
Nick Young scored 26 points on 11-of-15 shooting, but the Trojans, who rank seventh in the country in field-goal percentage defense, allowed Washington to score 85 points and shoot 52 percent—both season highs for a USC opponent.
“We should have known it was going to be a hard test,” Young said. “We just kind of let up a little bit and they fed off our mistakes.”
The Trojans went 5-for-18 from 3-point range, while Washington shot 10-of-18. USC has given up 20 3-pointers in its last two games.
“Defensive transition was the key,” coach Tim Floyd said. “We needed guys to get back, rotate, run the floor, and find a guy. We have been pretty good at it all year long, that is why we have been able to rob people, but we didn’t do a good job tonight.”
USC has lost three of four on the road, where it is 4-5 this season. The Cougars, meanwhile, are 12-2 at home, but have dropped two of their last four on Friel Court.
Washington State defeated USC 58-55 on Dec. 30, snapping the Trojans’ nine-game home win streak and beating them for the sixth time in seven meetings. Weaver had 12 points for the Cougars, including a game-clinching layup with four seconds remaining.
After dropping four straight home games to the Trojans, the Cougars have won three in a row over them in Pullman.
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