It's time for the Cougar Hardwood Classic!
OK, maybe it's not a tradition like eggnog and mistletoe, but WSU's annual home court basketball stop in Seattle is becoming a fixture. And unlike the school's annual Seattle football trip, there's little debate among Cougar Nation as to whether it's a good idea or not.
Friday's game against Buffalo in KeyArena marks the eighth Hardwood Classic. It's as good as Guaranteed Win Night, as the Cougars are 7-0 in their previous Seattle home games, including last year's 67-56 win over Pepperdine.
This is Washington State's only game of the week.
The week ahead: The Cougars end an eight-day break at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Buffalo (4-7) in KeyArena (Pac-12 Network).
Buffalo has wins this season over Evansville, Mansfield, Milwaukee and Niagara. Among teams to beat the Bulls are Florida State, Princeton and Temple. Buffalo's RPI is No. 219 (for comparison, the Cougars are No. 173).
Buffalo's go-to player is forward Javon McCrea, a 6-7 senior who averages 16.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. On Dec. 5, McCrea scored a career-high 31 points in a win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee. McCrea can be contained, however, as Niagara held the senior forward to three points and no field goals last week.
But the Bulls have another formidable forward in sophomore Will Regan, who is coming off a career-high 26-point performance against Niagara. Regan averages 10.8 points per game this season. Junior guard Jarod Oldman is versatile, as he is the team's second leading rebounder at 5.3 boards per game, and averages 10 points a game.
Last season, Buffalo played in the postseason CIT tournament, where the Bulls lost in the second round to Oakland.
Week in review: Like the upcoming week, the Cougars had just a singleton last week, resulting in a 52-41 win over Jackson State last Thursday in Pullman.
As opponents go, Jackson State doesn't move the strength of schedule meter. Counting back to last season, this was the Tigers' 12th consecutive loss. But given that the game was at the tail end of finals week, it's wise to schedule an opponent with lowly credentials.
Good thing for the Cougars, because this wasn't a sharp offensive performance. WSU was 3 of 19 from 3-point range, shot 40 percent from the floor and, because of it, trailed 34-32 with 12 minutes remaining.
Then WSU pulled on its Pac-12 pants and showed the out-manned visitors the door. The Cougars ran off 14 consecutive points to end whatever drama was building. As usual, the offense went through Brock Motum, who scored more than half of WSU's points with 27, as well as grabbing eight rebounds.
For comparison purposes, Jackson State went to Washington two days later and lost to the Huskies 75-67. Then again, earlier in the week, the Tigers lost by 53 to Saint Mary's.
Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-12 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel
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