For a Washington State team that has been stuck in the bottom half of the conference for the better part of the last decade, a win in January can be a sign of growth.
That is exactly what Cougars Coach Ernie Kent is taking away from an 80-77 win at rival Washington on Saturday.
Washington State (8-7, 2-1 Pac-12) won back-to-back road games for the first time since 2009 and did it with the return of a faster tempo in which Kent wants to see his team operate.
"This was a team [Washington State] that I was told couldn't defend, the numbers told you that the last couple years," Kent said. "Couldn't shoot it, the numbers told you that the last couple years. Couldn't shoot free throws, the numbers told you that the last couple years.
"We took 'em, we put our arms around them, we let them empty their backpack of all that negative stuff. I'm just happy for them that they're coming of age right now."
DaVonte Lacy — a product of Curtis High School in nearby Tacoma — hit six straight free throws down the stretch to hold off the Huskies (11-4, 0-3).
"I knew I was going to take them because I told myself, 'If we're going to win or lose, it's going to be on my shoulders,' " Lacy said. "I am a senior and I am back home, so it had to be on my shoulders. I just stepped up and just did what I do best."
Lacy led the Cougars with 25 points, while Que Johnson added 15, Ike Iroegbu had 13 and Brett Boese 11 for Washington State. Josh Hawkinson grabbed 10 rebounds to go along with eight points, but saw his streak of six straight double-doubles come to an end.
Washington State refused to fold after Washington ripped off a 7-0 run, capped by Andrew Andrews' three-point play, to give Washington a 68-67 lead. The Cougars responded with a 7-2 run, one capped emphatically with a three-point play of their own, as Hawkinson slipped a screen and found a lane to the hoop.
"We knew they were switching a bunch, so I set the screen and they were going off to the three-point line," said Hawkinson of his play, which gave Washington State a 74-70 lead with 46.0 seconds left.
Nigel Williams-Goss hit two baskets and Mike Anderson buried a 3-pointer down the stretch, but Lacy answered each one with a pair of free throws.
Anderson's off-balance three-pointer at the buzzer was well off target.
"I don't have a whole lot to say, because right now it's not about looking at any individual — what about this guy, what about that guy — it's all on me," Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar said. "As the head coach, I have to make sure that we get this turned around."
Williams-Goss scored a season-high 30 points for Washington. Andrews and Shawn Kemp Jr. had 12 apiece, and Anderson and Robert Upshaw added 10 each.
at Oregon 59, Arizona State 56: Joseph Young scored 16 points and Elgin Cook hit two clinching free throws with 9.3 seconds left for the Ducks on Saturday.
Cook added 14 points for the Ducks (12-4, 2-1 Pac-12), who won for the seventh time in eight games coming off Thursday night's 18-point loss to No. 7 Arizona.
Shaquielle McKissic led the Sun Devils (8-8, 0-3), who share the Pac-12 cellar with Washington, with 18 points and Eric Jacobsen had 13.
McKissic had two chances to tie the score in the final seconds, but he missed two free throws with 11.6 seconds left and Oregon leading 57-55, then his step-back three-point try at the buzzer from the left wing was short.
Oregon's Jordan Bell tied a school record with eight blocked shots, giving him 59 in 16 games in his freshman season.