Washington State Preview

They say it isn't how you start but actually how you finish that truly matters. The Arizona State Sun Devils (11-3, 0-1) really hope that is the case in terms of their Pac-12 schedule because they are looking to salvage a home split when the Washington State Cougars (7-6, 0-1) come to Tempe on Sunday for the only matchup between these two teams this season.

There are games every season that a team will struggle to get offensive production and then there are nights like Wazzu had against Arizona when they lost 60-25 and scored their fewest amount of points in 75 years. The Cougars shot just 20% from the field and Junior Longrus led the team with just six points. Missing two starters didn't help but the cause but it was tough way to kick off the Pac-12 season.

Lorenzo Romar and his Washington Huskies have won eight straight games over ASU after a 76-65 win on Thursday night. The 11-point deficit isn't so bad at first glance but the Huskies led comfortably for the final 30 minutes of action. The Sun Devils shot just 38% from the field, 14% from deep and missed nine free throws while also getting outrebounded. Jahii Carson had 15 points to lead three Devils in double figures but also just had just one assist while turning the ball over four times.

It is early January and there is a lot of basketball left before March comes but the Sun Devils cannot afford to get swept at home by two teams that will likely finish in the bottom half of the standings when all is said and done. The Cougars will be without DaVonte Lacy and Dexter Kernich-Drew and ASU should be able to capitalize.

Head Coach:

Ken Bone: 5th season at WSU – 77-71; 154-121 career

Herb Sendek: 8th season at ASU – 130-111; 384-289 career

Projected Starters:

G – Que Johnson (8.4 PPG, 34% 3PT) vs. Jahii Carson (19.0 PPG, 5.1 APG)

G – Royce Woolridge (10.4 PPG, 17% 3PT) vs. Jermaine Marshall (14.6 PPG, 44% 3PT)

F – Junior Longrus (3.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG) vs. Shaq McKissic (7.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG)

F – D.J. Shelton (7.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG) vs. Jon Gilling (7.2 PPG, 43% 3PT)

C – Jordan Railey (4.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG) vs. Jordan Bachynski (12.6 PPG, 9.5 RPG)

Why Washington State Can Win:

After watching what Washington did, I would be surprised if Ken Bone doesn't try to spread the floor with a guard-heavy rotation and get as many looks in transition as they can possibly get against a less athletic Sun Devil lineup. Look for Royce Woolridge to be the trigger-man when Wazzu has the ball and DJ Shelton could be called upon to try to stretch Jon Gilling.

Why ASU Can Win:

Washington State is predicted by many to finish in the Pac-12 cellar this season and the Sun Devils need to jump on the tentative Cougars early and often. Carson should be able to do whatever he wants against a slower, inexperienced Cougar backcourt and that means creating open looks for Bachynski and Marshall but also attacking the basket and getting to the line. Getting Brandan Kearney more opportunities is important as the season plows ahead and it will be interesting to see if his play combined with Shaq McKissic's recent surge will take playing time away from Gilling.

Key Stat: Without DaVonte Lacy's numbers in the lineup, Washington State shoots just 27% from three-point range and a paltry 57% from the free-throw line.

X-Factor: Urgency; losing to Miami is all it took to make the non-conference portion of the season a disappointment and then getting blown at home to kick off conference play against Washington has Huddle and Roundball message board members alike going into hibernation until football season already. There is a lot on the line this season and the coaching staff and players need to channel that energy into something positive and get back on track.

Final Score: ASU 67 Wazzu 55

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