This week in WSU Hoops

Special to Cougfan.com
Posted Jan 7, 2014


SEARCHING FOR POSITIVES from the rubble of last week’s forgettable road trip to Arizona? Yeah, me too. Here’s one, though it’s a stretch: Washington State won’t have a worse weekend the rest of the Pac-12 season.

I can say that with some confidence. Seriously, is there any chance WSU will score 25 points in a game again this regular season? The Cougars are finished with Arizona, and the Wildcats are the best defensive team in the West, and maybe the country. It’s difficult to envision WSU losing two games by a combined margin of 54 points the rest of this season.

I said it was a stretch, didn’t I?

OK, as many coaches would say, time to move on. Not that it gets a whole lot easier for the Cougars. Washington State returns home to open Pac-12 play Wednesday against No. 15 Colorado, which is fresh off a win over previously-unbeaten Oregon. This game will be played in Spokane Arena, rather than Pullman.

WSU’s brief home stand concludes in Pullman on Sunday against 12-2 Utah.

Beating a top 25 team isn’t unprecedented for the Ken Bone Cougars. WSU has done it three times during his five-year tenure. Last year, WSU beat No. 23 UCLA 73-61 in Pullman. During the 2010-11 season it happened twice, No. 15 Baylor in Hawaii (77-71) and No. 18 Washington in Pullman (87-80).

But WSU has lost these games more often than not. Slipping to 0-3 in league would put a lot of pressure on the Cougars heading into a game against Utah, which has revived its program. The Utes are four points – two last-second losses to Oregon and Boise State – away from joining Colorado in the unbeaten ranks.

The last time Washington State started the league season 0-4 was 2002-03, Paul Graham’s final year in Pullman.

Colorado, Utah at Cougs


Colorado: 6 p.m. Wednesday, Pac-12 Network

The series: Buffaloes lead 3-1

Utah: 4 p.m. Sunday, Pac-12 Network

The series: Utes lead 15-3


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The week ahead: Washington State (7-7, 0-2) opens the home portion of its Pac-12 slate against a pair of teams with a combined 25-4 record in Colorado (13-2, 2-0) and Utah (12-2, 1-1).

No. 1 Arizona remains the Pac-12 title favorite, but Colorado wouldn’t be a big surprise. The Buffaloes have been to the NCAAs the past two years, and should make it three barring a big collapse.

Colorado has two marquee wins this season over top 10 clubs Oregon and Kansas. The Buffaloes two losses came to No. 25 Baylor and No. 7 Oklahoma State.

The Cougars must contend with Colorado’s formidable guard combo of Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker. They combined to score half of the Buffaloes’ points in the 100-91 win over Oregon on Sunday.

Dinwiddie, a 6-foot-6 junior, has reached double digits in 13 of 15 games this season. In his season high, Dinwiddie hit 8 of 14 shots and scored 28 points against Colorado State. Dinwiddle has been dynamite of late from 3-point range, hitting 11 of 22 during the past five games.

Booker scored a season-high 27 points against Oregon. The 6-2 junior is erratic from 3-point range, though Booker has hit 20 this season.

Forward Josh Scott is Colorado’s best big man. The 6-10 sophomore is averaging 9.5 rebounds a game, and he’s a scoring threat, as Scott has posted a double-double the past five games. Against Oklahoma State, Scott went for 20 points and 12 boards.

Also to watch are Xavier Johnson (10.0 ppg, 6.2 reb.) and Wesley Gordon (6.8 ppg, 6.0 reb).

As for Utah, national followers are on the fence. The Utes, despite 12 wins in 14 games, are nowhere near the NCAA tournament field, according to ESPN’s Bracketology. College basketball guru Ken Pomeroy rates Utah No. 68, and according to his statistics, it appears what kills the Utes is their strength of schedule. At No. 349, only Texas A&M and Mississippi State have played weaker schedules to date.

It’s no wonder Utah is 12-2 after playing the likes of St. Kate, Texas State, Grand Canyon, Evergreen State and Savannah State. Also, this will be the Utes second road game of the season; in its only other travel, Utah lost at Boise State 69-67.

Sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge is the Utes’ go-to scorer, averaging 17 points and 8.8 rebounds a game. Loveridge didn’t exactly light Oregon and Oregon State afire, though, hitting just 11 of 31 shots in those two games. Loveridge has a season-high of 25 points against Savannah State, and against Idaho State, hit four 3-pointers.

Utah has two other double-digit scores in Deion Wright (14.8 ppg) and Brandon Taylor (11.7). Wright, a 6-5 junior guard, does most his damage inside the arc, as he’s hit only six 3-pointers this season. Wright will be one of the best rebounding guards the Cougars will face this season, as he’s averaging 6.9 boards a game, with a high of 17 against St. Katherine. Taylor is coming off a season-high 23 points against Oregon State. Wright and Taylor combine to hand out more than 10 assists a game.

Read Nick Daschel’s occasional Pac-12 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel


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