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Preview: Washington State faces Air Force in Spokane

by Tim Lewis

Posted on December 11, 2009 at 12:59 PM

Updated Saturday, Dec 12 at 12:05 AM

The Washington State men's basketball team plays three straight "home games" on the road, starting with a battle against Air Force in Spokane on Saturday (they play in the Tri-Cities on the 19th and in Seattle on the 22nd as well). The two teams are scheduled to tip-off at 1pm at Veterans Memorial Arena.

The Cougars are 6-2, coming off a 76-64 win against Idaho on Wednesday, while Air Force is 5-2 so far this season. Don't be completely fooled by their record. The Falcons have wins against Western State, Dickinson State, Charleston Southern, North Carolina Central, and Prairie View A&M (I didn't even know some of these schools existed). WSU and Air Force have only played once in the past with the Cougs winning 71-62 in Spokane back in 2007.

The Falcons are led by senior forward Grant Parker. He averages 17.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per page (both team highs). Parker is extremely dangerous, because he is 6'8" and shoots better than 40-percent from three-point range. Evan Washington also does a fair share of damage, averaging 13.7 points per contest. Tom Fow, who has been battling injuries, has averaged nine points off the bench in just three games this year. He will be healthy for Saturday's game. Center Sammy Schafer can also score (averaging 7.3 ppg), but it's unclear if he'll play (concussion).

Washington State is becoming really good at taking large leads and then letting them slip away. I don't think the Cougars will have any problems with Air Force, but I would love to see WSU play a full 40 minutes. The Falcons are pretty stingy on defense, allowing just 58.1 points per game (but keep in mind who they've played). They run a Princeton-style offense, which means they use a lot of motion, etc., which could slow down the pace a bit.

That means you can expect to see conflicting styles (and chances are WSU will give up some easy buckets -- they get eaten alive by backdoor cuts (another part of the Princeton offense), e.g., Gonzaga). WSU scores more than 80 points per game by getting up and down the floor as quickly as possible. Don't be surprised if you see Klay Thompson score 30+ points.

I haven't seen the line for the game (I'll update this -- if I remember to -- once I do), but I don't really think it matters. Like I've already mentioned, I think Washington State will have an easy time against Air Force. I guess we'll see what happens tomorrow.

UPDATE: I didn't forget! Washington State is favored by 19.5 points.