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Washington State hoops coming fresh off a momentum-filled week

Jan. 18—Last weekend might've been the best weekend of the season thus far for a pair of Washington State men's and women's basketball teams with postseason aspirations.

First, the WSU men shocked then-No. 8 Arizona 73-70 on Saturday, then the Wazzu women went to Seattle to defeat their rival Washington 72-59 in the Apple Cup Series on Sunday.

The journey continues this week as the WSU men (12-5, 3-3 Pac-12) face the two northern California Pac-12 schools on the road, starting at 8 p.m. today at Stanford, and the WSU women (12-5, 1-3) host the two Arizona schools at home, beginning at 7 p.m. Friday against Arizona State.

WSU women getting back on track

The defending Pac-12 champions had a rough start to conference play.

The Cougars began 0-3 with losses to UW, No. 8 Stanford and Cal before righting the ship in a rivalry rematch against Huskies in Seattle.

"We had a really good group of Coug fans there," WSU coach Kamie Ethridge said during her weekly radio show. "Really proud of our team and really a springboard for what we need to be successful in this league."

The Cougs sit at 11th in a Pac-12 Conference that features five teams ranked in Associated Press Top 25, including four in the top 10, so a climb back to their fourth straight NCAA tournament will be a steep one.

The only team behind WSU in the standings is its next opponent, Arizona State (8-9, 0-5), so Friday's showdown is a must-win contest. Then, the team will host Arizona at noon, Sunday — another team in the middle of a down year at 10-7 and 2-3.

WSU men faring better than expected

After losing their top four scorers from a team that went .500 a year ago, the Wazzu men are doing better than their peers expected.

Especially after coming off wins against USC and the then-No. 8 Wildcats. Those victories show just how good this team could be.

"I think it was just a matter of time," WSU freshman guard Myles Rice said after the close victory against Arizona. "We've been in this position before and we were on the other end of it, but (Saturday) we kept our composure even when they made a late run."

Despite their solid record and big upsets in this past week, not everyone is convinced the Cougars are the real deal.

WSU is a 2.5-point underdog today against Stanford (9-7, 4-2) on the road.

The Cardinal are the second-best 3-point shooting team in the league at 38.6%, but they allow 76.6 points per game, which ranks second-worst in the conference.

Star check

On the women's side, WSU senior guard Charlisse Leger-Walker has been tearing up stat sheets since she splashed onto the scene as a freshman in 2020.

But her numbers are slightly down this year. The AP All-American honorable mention averages 13.5 points per game, which ranks 15th in the conference.

She's right ahead of teammate senior post Bella Murekatete at 13.4 points per game.

On the men's side, senior transfer Isaac Jones has made his name known in his lone season in the Pac-12. Jones is coming off national player of the week honors from ESPN and Naismith after tallying back-to-back 20-point, 10-rebound double-doubles against the Trojans and Wildcats.

He averages 15.4 points (11th in Pac-12) and 7.7 rebounds (fourth).

Jones' emergence is a big reason why the Cougars already have 12 wins in the middle of January despite losing so much from last season.

Wiebe may be contacted at (208) 848-2260, swiebe@lmtribune.com or on Twitter @StephanSports.