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Washington State Cougars Preview and Open Thread

The Huskies men's basketball team opens conference play at home against their cross-state rivals.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Check out our conference preview content from earlier this week:

Pac-12 North Preview

Pac-12 South Preview

UWDP Writers' Roundtable

Date: Sunday, 1/1/16

Tip-Off Time: 5:30pm PST


Radio: Komo 1000

Washington St. Statistics:

Record: 7-5

Points For per Game: 71.4 ppg

Points Against per Game: 73.2 ppg

Strength of Schedule: 306th

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 100.1 (217th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 103.5 (192nd)

Washington St. Key Players:

C- Conor Clifford, So. 7-0, 260: 9.8ppg, 3.3rpg, 1.1apg, 63.6% FG, 87% FT

Clifford is a surprisingly ineffective rebounder given his size. However, he converts at an exceptional rate around the basket and should give the porous UW post defense fits if he can get the ball consistently down low.

F- Josh Hawkinson, Sr. 6-10, 230: 15.2ppg, 10.8rpg, 2.2apg, 47.7% FG, 83.3% FT, 26.1% 3pt

Hawkinson continues to be the best player for Wazzu, averaging a full double-double. He’s one of the best rebounders in the country and it’s going to be difficult for UW to consistently get second chances on offense while he’s on the floor.

G- Ike Iroegbu, Sr. 6-2, 195: 10.8ppg, 4.2rpg, 2.8apg, 41.6% FG, 66% FT, 39.3% 3pt

Iroegbu has improved as a 3-pt shooter this season to become a real threat from deep. He’s extremely athletic as the team’s second leading rebounder at just 6-2.

G- Charles Callison, Sr. 6-0, 185: 9.3ppg, 1.8rpg, 1.4apg, 43.9% FG, 85.3% FT, 35.5% 3pt

Callison has been pretty average across the board this season. His best attribute is his ability to draw fouls and once he’s at the line he converts at a very high percentage.

G- Malachi Flynn, Fr. 6-1, 170: 11.3ppg, 3.8rpg, 3.0apg, 51.2% FG, 76.5% FT, 46.8% 3pt

Flynn only had offers from the Cougars and Pacific but has been another standout freshman point guard for the conference. He’s made almost twice as many threes as any other player on the team while shooting almost 47%. He has struggled mightily with turnovers so David Crisp is probably the best comp for his ability and style of play.

The Outlook

It has been years since Washington State has challenged for a spot in the NCAA tournament and it looks like that drought will continue. The quality of the Cougars’ wins in the non-conference slate line up fairly closely with UW’s but their losses are much worse. Home losses to #209 San Jose St, and #260 New Orleans show that this team has the potential to lose to anyone on any given night.

The defense is slightly better than UW’s from an efficiency standpoint but the offense is significantly worse. There are a few areas in particular where the Cougars are towards the bottom in the country in the national rankings. Despite Hawkinson’s tremendous rebounding, they’re still 338th nationally in securing offensive rebounds. Additionally, they’re 339th nationally in steal percentage. The two stats combined means that it’s very hard for Washington State to generate extra possessions to negate their talent deficit.

Part of the reason for their problems forcing turnovers is that the Cougars are not very aggressive. It appears Ernie Kent has the opposite philosophy as Lorenzo Romar in that he would prefer to avoid giving up fouls even if it means they can’t get steals. A Washington State upset will involve the Cougars shooting over 50% from deep and a significant differential from the free throw line. However, Washington State is closer to Western Michigan and Western Kentucky as a team than they are to Yale and Nevada. Even when the Huskies have struggled in recent years they’ve played reasonably well to start conference play and I expect that to continue tonight.


Washington Huskies- 90, Washington State Cougars- 79