If I was a boring and cliched person, I would tell you that the Washington State University men's basketball team is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get. Unlucky for you, I'm lacking creativity this morning, so that's the best you're going to get out of me right now.
The Cougars looked terrible last Thursday against UCLA (they were drubbed 71-51), but bounced back in fine form (except Klay Thompson, who was 0-12 from the field) to take down USC 51-47 on Saturday. I guess that's what happens when you are one of the youngest teams in the country. Up one day...down another.
To show just how young the Cougars are, just one senior will bid farewell to Pullman on Saturday against the Huskies (it's the final home game of the year). Nikola Koprivica is the only player who will be honored on Senior Night. He deserves to be honored. With a win against Washington, Koprivica will become tied as the winningest Cougar of all-time (George Hamilton, who played in the 1940s has 86 wins; Nikola has 85). The Serbian native has come off the bench in 81 of 109 career games, but that doesn't make him any less a part of all the Cougars recent success. He's a good kid and he deserves as much love as you can give him on Saturday. Click here for a story I put together on Koprivica earlier this year.
Now to the game itself.
Washington (18-9; 8-7) and Washington State (16-11; 6-9) square off for the second time this season. The Huskies took down the Cougars 92-64 in the first meeting on January 30th. I probably sound like a homer, but the score wasn't as bad as the game itself (the Cougs appeared to quit with about 15 minutes left in the game). WSU actually led the contest 40-36 at the half, but they were outscored 56-24 after the break.
Needless to say, Wazzu MUST play a full 40 minutes to beat the Huskies this time around. There is no other way around it. Washington is more athletic and more experienced than the Cougars. The only way WSU will win is if they stay focused and energized the entire game. The youngsters feed off the home crowd, so Wazzu must stay in the game long enough to keep the fans interested. Not to mention the Huskies stink on the road. They have just one win (that's not a misprint) away from Seattle this year.
Quincy Pondexter exploded for 29 points and 12 rebounds, while Isaiah Thomas scored 19 points against the Cougars earlier this year. They'll be the biggest threats again (like they are every game). Venoy Overton is a threat offensively and defensively (he is aggressive as heck), while Matthew Bryan-Amaning can score and collect plenty of rebounds. The Dawgs outrebounded the Cougs 52-38 in the first meeting. WSU has to to make more shots or be more aggressive on the glass this time around.
Now to Klay Thompson.
I could use the same stupid Forrest Gump cliche again here, but at this point I've hit my groove. The sophomore has made just two of his last 21 shots from the field. He's averaging 20 points per game this season, but he's scored just ten points in his last two contests. In the first meeting against the Huskies, Thompson shot just 2-of-15 from the field for seven points. Klay is the key. If he is on, the Cougars have all the hope in the world. If he's off, Wazzu will be in serious trouble. There is no one else who can carry the load all by themselves.
The Huskies opened as a four and a half point favorite on Saturday. Ken Pomeroy is giving Washington State just a 32-percent chance to take down Washington. He's pegged the Huskies as a 81-76 winner.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7pm in Pullman. The game will be televised on FSN.
We talked to Nikola Koprivica at practice this week. Click here for his uncut interview about the Huskies and Senior Night.
One final thing...I know I'm supposed to be an unbiased broadcaster, but this is the Cougar blog so I feel like there is room to skirt the rules. I want to leave you with this. I hope you think it's as funny/ridiculous as I do (otherwise this is a monster failure).