Washington State and UCLA used its Thursday night opponents as mere speed bumps as both teams speed towards a collision on Saturday morning. USC (who was surprisingly favored over the Cougars) and Washington could have been considered "trap" games for the Cougars and Bruins. Instead they were cast aside like a couple of mid-major curtain jerkers, whose only role was that of a warm-up act to the show that we really want to see. In instances like this, you just want the opening band to play its set, rock its one-hit and then be on its way while were all standing out at the beer line.
And except for a hip-pointer to Darren Collison, it appears that the mission was accomplished.
Washington State 73, USC 58: The most impressive thing about Washington State is that they are so methodical. At times it can be a little bit boring, but do you think Tony Bennett cares about being pretty? The Cougars have been able to shutdown some pretty great offensive teams. Gonzaga and USC are both quality programs that have been slowed against this team. What is even more amazing is that Washington State plays such pressure defense and yet USC shot only four free-throws. The Cougars can be rough an intimidating without fouling. Again, amazing.
UCLA 69, Washington 55: Watching this game on replay, you can't help but be impressed by Russell Westbrook. What a stud. Westbrook scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half to lead the Bruins. UCLA also used a lot of defensive pressure to hold down an underrated Huskies team. The Bruins were pretty awful from three-point range, shooting only 2-of-10. Things don't figure to get any easier against Washington State -- probably the understatement of the year. UCLA's 90 percent from the free throw line is good, especially in close games. But they are really going to need to get the ball inside to get to the line on Saturday.
Oregon 79, Cal 70: The Ducks improved to 11-4, and you would think that record was worse with all of the bashing that Ernie Kent has taken. But Oregon wins consecutive games for the first time since early December.
Stanford 66, Oregon State 46: Seriously, are the Beavers going to win a conference game this season? Don't laugh, who do you think they will beat now that Arizona State is good? They might catch Washington at home, but the Huskies are better than most people think. The Beavers just don't look competitive right now.