WSU HOOPS: Preview Mississippi Valley State

JUNIOR LONGRUS

WASHINGTON STATE HAS one final game Saturday night before Pac-12 play begins -- and it presents an opportunity. Specifically, Mississippi Valley State, the Cougs' opponent, presents an opportunity.

MVS is not a tall team, to put it mildly. On Friday night against the UW, of the six players who logged the most minutes, the tallest man on the court for the Delta Devils was just 6-6.

If Washington State wants to go inside, if the Cougars want to work on their post game, if Wazzu wants to hone their skills in the paint heading into Pac-12 play and with No. 1 Arizona looming large on Jan. 2, there is no better opportunity than the one that presents itself Saturday in Pullman.

And given Washington State's poor outside shooting percentage to this point in the season (apart from DaVonté Lacy,) it would seem very much in the Cougs' interest to go inside. WSU scored but 17 first-half points in the first half their last time out against UTEP. They can double that with a strong inside-outside game in the first half against MVS.

Jordan Railey, the rising Junior Longrus, D.J. Shelton, Josh Hawkinson -- this is an important night for one and all.

ON FRIDAY NIGHT against UW, Mississippi Valley State couldn't stop UW in the paint. UW was into the bonus six minutes into the first half.

Now, the Huskies led 39-35 at halftime and with 12:40 remaining, MVSU tied the score at 56-all. And that was due to a lot of missed opportunities by the Huskies and some poor point-blank shooting. The Huskies won comfortably in the end but needed an 18-0 run midway through the second half to post a 95-80 win.

And MVS is capable of beating Washington State. That they were right there well into the second half against the Huskies means they can hang with a Pac-12 team, and then some. MVS will run if you let them, and they can also hit the three. Anthony McDonald is averaging 15-plus and 41 percent from downtown. They're fast and they're quick.

But teams who have gone inside have overwhelmed Mississippi Valley State. They're 3-8 on the year. Washington State can play with their back to the basket and back it down all night long if they want.

WSU also wants to get their guards shooting from outside, too. It's not as if they should ignore their bread and butter. But the foundation to a win Saturday, one that best propels this Cougar squad into the Pac-12 slate, that can be built upon the inside game against MVS.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Tip-off is at 5 p.m. The game can be seen on the Pac-12 Networks. Rich Waltz and Ernie Kent have the call.

  • Senior D.J. Shelton leads the Cougs and ranks ninth in the Pac-12 with 7.7 rebounds per game.

  • WSU is 3-0 against MVS with the last win coming in Ken Bone's first season at WSU -- a 94-66 win in 2009 The Cougars are 17-0 all-time against current members of the SWAC.
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