There is reason for concern at Washington State after the Cougars’ first home loss of the season. But they don’t have much time to worry as a streaking Stanford team pulls into Pullman.
The ninth-ranked Cougars and No. 14 Cardinal meet for the second straight time with both as ranked teams on Saturday as Stanford looks to win its fifth straight game while Washington State tries to avoid consecutive losses for the first time in two seasons.
Since its 14-0 start, Washington State (17-3, 5-3 Pac-10) has split its last six games and lost two of its three games to unranked teams. Its 69-64 loss to California on Thursday also snapped a 10-game home winning streak.
Cougars leading scorer Derrick Low had just five points on 2-of-11 shooting, missing a pair of 3-pointers in the final seconds that could have tied the game.
The second popped in and out with one second left as he finished 0 of 9 from 3-point range, capping a disappointing 5-for-20 performance from beyond the arc for Washington State.
“That’s the way the game was for me the whole night,” Low said.
With the loss, the Cougars fell into a tie with Arizona for third place in the Pac-10, two games behind UCLA and one behind Stanford (17-3, 6-2). In their three losses, they have allowed an average of 75.3 points, nearly 20 above their season mark of 54.7 points allowed per game, which is third-best in the nation.
“We need to learn from our mistakes, loosen up some screws and make some improvements or it’s going to be a long season,” Cougars guard Taylor Rochestie said.
Washington State has not lost consecutive games since a seven-game skid to end the 2005-06 season.
That’s especially impressive in the Pac-10, which has had six different teams ranked in the top 25 during this season—and Cal wasn’t one of them. Washington State coach Tony Bennett called it “the best league in the country.”
“That’s the best thing about the Pac-10, you can’t think about each game too long,” Rochestie said. “We have a heavyweight contender coming in here Saturday so as much as we want to get upset about this game, we have to put it past us.”
Stanford’s biggest heavyweight scored a knockout in the Cardinal’s last game as 7-footer Brook Lopez had a career-high 31 points and 13 rebounds in a 65-51 win Thursday at Washington—Stanford’s fourth straight win and sixth in the last seven games.
Lopez has emerged after missing the season’s first nine games due to academic ineligibility. The sophomore is averaging 23.6 points and nine rebounds in his last five games, and shot 11-of-17 from the field against Washington.
Still, Stanford coach Trent Johnson wasn’t satisfied.
“There are so many part of his game where he needs to improve,” Johnson said. ” … I’m never happy with anybody defensively.”
Not that there’s anything wrong with Stanford’s defensive numbers. The Cardinal have allowed 52 or fewer points in three of the past four games and five of the past seven.
They are second in the Pac-10 in both scoring defense—allowing 57.2 points per game—and defensive field goal percentage, limiting opponents to just 38.7 percent.
The teams had a predictably low-scoring game in Pullman last season, as then-No. 14 Washington State beat 25th-ranked Stanford 58-45, snapping a four-game skid against the Cardinal.