This week in Cougar Hoops

IT'S BACK TO familiar opponents this week for Washington State basketball as the Cougars (3-3) try to build a winning streak and momentum following a runaway win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. But make no mistake, the Cougars face a significant test on Wednesday night.

The week ahead: Washington State sticks with Northwest-based opponents this week. On Wednesday, it's a rivalry game as the Cougars play host to Idaho (7 p.m., Pac-12 Network). Then Saturday, Washington State entertains Portland in Pullman (7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network).

Idaho (1-3) has to be taken seriously, despite its record. The Vandals' losses are all to good teams, including unbeaten New Mexico. Idaho's leader is senior Kyle Barone, a 6-10 post who is averaging 17 points and eight rebounds a game. Barone has been an Idaho standout in recent years, a double-digit scorer the past three seasons.

The Vandals also have a dangerous perimeter threat in junior Stephen Madison. He's yet to catch fire from the outside this season, yet still averages 15.4 points a game. During last year's 66-64 loss to the Cougars, Madison went 7 of 10 from the field and scored 18 points.

Speaking of last year, the Cougars won when Reggie Moore hit a jumper with less than a second remaining to break a 64-64 tie. Idaho rallied from a 12-point deficit despite shooting just 31 percent against WSU.

Portland (2-3) probably isn't as formidable as Idaho. The Pilots struggle against zone defenses because of a lack of 3-point shooting. UP is 2-0 at home, but 0-3 on the road, losing by an average of 21 points. On the flip side, the Pilots have played at least two road opponents likely to be in the NCAA tournament in Ohio and New Mexico.

The Pilots' go-to guy is junior Ryan Nicholas, a 6-7 forward from Spokane who averages 13 points and nine rebounds a game. Portland has a bit of size from 6-11 sophomore Thomas van der Mars, and a versatile wing in 6-5 sophomore Kevin Bailey.

Last year, Washington State beat the Pilots 83-73 in Portland, as Faisal Aden scored 21 points for the Cougars.

Did you know? Upon returning from Kansas City last Wednesday, Washington State doesn't leave the state to play a game until Jan. 9. The Cougars have a stretch of nine "home" games, including games in Kennewick (Idaho State) and Seattle (Bufflalo)

Week in review: The Cougars took a step backward last week in losing two of their three games, even if the week ended on a good note with last Saturday's 66-38 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff in Pullman.

The week began with a horrific road trip to Kansas City, where Washington State lost both games in the CBE Classic. Hard to say which game was worse: the 78-41 thumping handed by Kansas, or the 55-54 loss to Texas A&M.

For my money, the A&M setback was the topper. Even if the Cougars had played well against Kansas, the odds against winning were stacked. The Jayhawks looked every bit the part of a top 10 team in rolling WSU. But Texas A&M? This was a game for the Cougars to take. And they would have, if not for a finish you had to see to believe.

The way WSU mismanaged the final two minutes with a lead seemed destined to end in disaster, as it did when the Aggies' Elston Turner – a former Washington Husky, no less – buried a 3-point shot with two seconds remaining to pull out the victory.

Texas A&M is no great shakes, but a road/neutral win over a BCS conference school always counts for something. Washington State should have returned to Pullman with a split, and didn't.

Statistically, Dexter Kernich-Drew had a nice game against Texas A&M, with a career-high 16 points. That was encouraging for a team that needs scoring options outside of Brock Motum and DaVonte Lacy.

As for Kansas, what more needs to be said than the final score? This was a rout from the opening tip. The Jayhawks had a double-digit lead less than six minutes into the game and led 50-21 at halftime. Kansas might have had 100 against WSU had it not significantly hit the brakes midway through the second half.

Hard to see any positives from the KU game. Motum led the Cougars with 14 points, but he shot just 6 of 18 to get there.

As for Arkansas-Pine Bluff, you've seen this act before. Washington State often has its way at home with teams of the Golden Lions' ilk. APB is 1-4, coming to Pullman having been previously slaughtered by Hawaii and San Diego State this season. The Cougars needed a half to warm up, then added to the Golden Lions' misery with a terrific start to the second half. Leading by seven points at halftime, Washington State used runs of 12-2 and 17-2 to open up a 56-30 lead. Arkansas-Pine Bluff shot just 30 percent against the Cougars.

Transfer Royce Woolridge had his best game as a Cougar with 14 points to share scoring honors with Motum.

Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-10 ramblings at

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