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UCLA BASKETBALL

Washington State star Klay Thompson is suspended for game against UCLA

Thompson, the Pac-10's leading scorer, will not play Saturday against Bruins in Pullman, Wash., after being issued a misdemeanor citation for marijuana possession late Thursday. The Cougars also could be without injured guard Reggie Moore.

March 04, 2011|By Ben Bolch
  • Washington State's Klay Thompson has been suspended for Saturday's game against UCLA.
Washington State's Klay Thompson has been suspended for Saturday's… (Mike Nelson / U.S. Presswire )

Reporting from Pullman, Wash. — Asked about Washington State's iffy NCAA tournament chances this week, Klay Thompson did not sound like someone with a future in public relations.

"Honestly, they're pretty slim," the Cougars' junior guard said in a phone interview with The Times on Tuesday.

Thanks to Thompson, they're now in even greater doubt.

The Pacific 10 Conference's leading scorer was suspended for Washington State's game against UCLA on Saturday at Friel Court after being issued a misdemeanor criminal citation for marijuana possession late Thursday night.

A Pullman police officer pulled over Thompson's GMC Envoy around 11 p.m. because the passenger-side headlight was out, Commander Chris Tennant said. The officer smelled an odor of burned marijuana coming from the vehicle, Tennant said, but Thompson denied any involvement with the drug.

Officers eventually had Thompson open a center console and observed marijuana in the vehicle, but because of state law, they could not retrieve it until obtaining a search warrant, Tennant said. Thompson was issued a citation and officers impounded his vehicle, finding 1.95 grams of marijuana inside.

Washington State suspended Thompson on Friday for the Cougars' game against UCLA, which would secure at least second place in the Pac-10 with a victory. The Bruins (21-9, 12-5 Pac-10) could tie Arizona (24-6, 13-4) for the regular-season conference title with a win and a Wildcats loss to Oregon on Saturday in Tucson.

Thompson, the former Santa Margarita High star who is averaging 21.4 points per game, is not the only player Washington State might be without. Guard Reggie Moore sprained his right ankle in the first half of the Cougars' 85-77 victory over USC on Thursday night and did not return. His ankle was placed in a walking boot and a school spokeswoman said he is doubtful for Saturday.

Moore also has drawn a one-game suspension for a marijuana-related incident this season. In December, police discovered the substance in Moore's dorm room, and he was forced to sit out a game against Stanford on Jan. 15.

Thompson acknowledged this week that the Cougars (19-10, 9-8) needed to win their last two home games and at least reach the Pacific Life Pac-10 tournament championship game to have a chance of receiving an at-large berth for the NCAA tournament. Joe Lunardi, ESPN's "bracketologist," on Friday listed Washington State among the first four teams to be excluded from tournament selection.

UCLA Coach Ben Howland said he did not expect the Cougars to fold without Thompson, noting how the Bruins defeated California and Stanford earlier this season with freshman center Joshua Smith sidelined by a head and neck injury.

"Sometimes things happen where it inspires a team even more, so we know with or without Klay it will be a difficult game for us," Howland said.

Winning in Pullman has been routine for the Bruins, who have amassed 17 consecutive victories on the Cougars' home floor. Among UCLA's traveling party, only director of basketball operations Tyus Edney and director of administration Doug Erickson were affiliated with the program the last time the Bruins lost to Washington State here — on Feb. 6, 1993.

"Since I've been here, we've won some very close games here," said Howland, who is 7-0 at Friel Court. "We're very fortunate. Two or three times it's come right down to the wire."

Junior college haven?

The Bruins received a commitment from De'End Parker, a 6-foot-5 guard from City College of San Francisco who originally committed to Cal. Rams Coach Justin Labagh said Parker switched his commitment to UCLA after the Bruins offered a scholarship because he has always wanted to play in Westwood. A scholarship became available for Labagh after guard Matt Carlino transferred to Brigham Young in December. Though junior college transfers have been rare at UCLA in recent decades, the Bruins could have two next season with Parker and point guard Lazeric Jones. Labagh said he envisioned Parker playing the wing for UCLA.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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