The Washington State Cougars men's basketball team is 10-12 and 4-6 in Pac-12 Conference play following its 55-50 loss to the Oregon State Beavers. The Cougars have lost five of their last six games. The team will need to make a quick turnaround as they need to travel a few miles south to Eugene to take on an Oregon Duck team looking for revenge.
Winners of four of their last five games, the Oregon Ducks currently sit in a tie at third in the Pac-12 standings with a conference record of 6-4. Their overall record is 16-7. One of those losses was a 108-99 loss to the WSU Cougars in Pullman. It was a very fast paced game that went into overtime.
This game has a lot of significance for the Ducks because they are tied with Stanford, UCLA, and in-state rival Oregon State for third place. The Top 4 teams in the Pac-12 earn a bye in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament. The Cougars are trying to better their position for the Pac-12 tournament. A win tonight and the Cougars are back in the middle of the Pac-12 standing rather than being towards the bottom.
The key match-up will between the two team's top scoring guards. The Ducks are led by senior guard Joseph Young who averages 19.3 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per game. He had 32 points in his team's loss to the Cougars earlier this year. The Cougars will need to counter with senior guard DaVonte Lacy. Lacy is averaging 17.1 points and 2.9 rebounds per game and Ernie Kent cannot stop speaking about Lacy's leadership for a young Cougar team. However, Lacy is coming off a rough night at Oregon State where he made two of his 10 shots and only scored 5 points.
In his post-game press conference after beating Oregon, Cougars head coach Ernie Kent admitted to giving his guards and agile forwards rather than his post defenders. He said that it was a "guard's game" and he did not want Railey playing a lot during that game for that reason. Expect Kent to go back to that strategy.
The Ducks and the Cougars like to play an up-tempo, run and shoot type of basketball game. This is what made their first meeting the thriller that it was. The game will most likely be played at that tempo again so expect to see extended minutes from junior forward Breet Boese, senior forward Dexter Kernich-Drew, and redshirt sophomore guard Que Johnson.
Fortunately for both teams, neither side has an injury to any of its players. Expect to see the starting lineups the same as usual for both teams. I expect to see the guards being DaVonte Lacy and Ike Iroegbu, the forwards to be Josh Hawkinson and Que Johnson, and Jordan Railey at center. Kent likes having Railey in the game to set the tone even if he does not get a lot of minutes. Oregon will counter with guards Joseph Young and Jalil Abdul-Bassit, and three forwards in Elgin Cook, Jordan Bell and Dillon Brooks.
As a side note, this is the second time Ernie Kent will face his former team but this time he returns to Eugene, the first time since being fired from Oregon in 2010.
During his post-game press conference after the earlier victory over the Ducks, Ernie Kent said, "We overcame a hurdle tonight..." The Cougars will need to overcome another hurdle Sunday: beating a top Pac-12 team on the road.