This Week in WSU hoops: Home sweet home

PULLMAN- After playing five of their first six on the road, the Cougars will be glad to finally play two games at home this week. Following a fourth place finish in the Great Alaska Shootout, the Cougars (3-3) have some momentum heading into their upcoming matchups against Idaho and UT San Antonio, a pair of games senior guard DaVonte Lacy says are huge.

“We fought back to even (record) and now we don’t want to take another step back,” DaVonte Lacy said. “Now we want to keep building it up…because we have a couple big games coming up (Idaho, UTSA, and next week against Gonzaga).”

After shooting 22.8 percent against UC Santa Barbara in the first round of the Great Alaska Shootout, the Cougars found their grove on offense in final two games of the tournament.

“We were really clicking in that last game (against Missouri State),” sophomore guard Ike Iroegbu said. “We really pulled together and just made big shots…I feel like everyone’s clicking now and we should be good for Idaho.”

Five players including Iroegbu scored in double figures for the Cougars in the win over Missouri State. Iroegbu played off the ball and ended up having his best game of the season: 14 points, six assists and six rebounds.

Iroegbu, who started this season at point guard but has since moved to the two in the starting lineup, said he’s on board with true freshman Ny Redding now the Cougs' starting point guard.

“Coach (Kent) just wants me to run the floor more and just make plays for myself and for my teammates,” Iroegbu said.” That’s what I enjoy doing whether it’s getting to the cup and getting a bucket or shooting the three – whatever’s best for the team.”

The tip-off: Washington State (3-3) vs Idaho (2-3) Wednesday at 7 p.m. PST in Beasley Coliseum. On Saturday, the Cougars will host UT San Antonio (2-3) at 12 p.m. PST. Both games will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks. *Note: The WSU-Idaho game is available only on the Pac-12 Washington channel. See below for more details.

The rankings: None of the three teams are in the top 25. Ken Pomeroy has WSU at No. 200, Idaho at No. 269, UTSA at No. 306 in his 2015 College Basketball Ratings.

About Idaho: Don’t look past Idaho, Kent says, they will provide a tough test for the Cougars on Wednesday.

“We are not a basketball team that can feel like we can walk into our arena or any other arena and feel like we’ve got a game,” Kent said. “We’re going to have to walk in and work our tail off whether it’s home or the road and that’s a good thing for us because those are the types of games that force you to grow -- and right now we need to be forced to grow.”

With Idaho less than eight miles from Washington State, both teams are very familiar with one another. The Vandals and Cougars regularly face off in pick-up games during the summer.

“They (Idaho) always come over and we go over there and it’s always a battle because it’s like a rivalry,” Lacy said. “There’s bragging rights until the next open gym.”

Lacy and Idaho sophomore guard Sekou Wiggs have a history of battling against each other that dates back to high school. When Lacy was a senior at Curtis High in University Place, he attended an elite basketball camp where he met Wiggs, at the time was a junior at O’Dea High in Seattle.

“Ever since then it’s been kind of a rivalry because we went at each other at that camp,” Lacy said. “Ever since then we’ve always battled, it’s always friendly after.”

Wiggs and the Vandals enter this week on a three game losing streak but all of their games have been competitive. Idaho is averaging 75 ppg, 70th in the country, according to Senior guard Mike Scott leads the team in scoring with 16.4 ppg and Wiggs is second at 12.2. Idaho has four players averaging in double figures.

The series: The Cougars lead 162-107. The two teams are meeting for the 109th consecutive season – the longest continual series west of the Mississippi and fifth longest rivalry series of all time outside of the Ivy League. Last season, WSU won at Idaho 67-66. Former Cougar forward D.J. Shelton hit two free throws with less than eight seconds left and Idaho missed a three point shot at the buzzer.

“It’s like any rivalry, you’ve got to throw the records out the book no matter who’s on the team or what,” Lacy said. “I’m pretty sure their coaching staff takes it more serious than a regular game and our coaches take it real serious…you don’t want to lose this game so you give everything you got.”

About UTSA: The Cougs’ defense will be key in this one. The Road Runners are averaging 76.6 points a game (No.59th in the country) according to UTSA has had issues on the defensive end of the floor, allowing 73.6 ppg.

UTSA is led by forward Jeromie Hill, who connects on half his shots and is averaging 16.4 points and 8.2 rebounds. Ryan Bowie (15.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg) also is shooting an identical 50.8 percent from the floor.

UTSA has at times struggled down the stretch, losing a six-point lead over the final minute in a loss to Southern Utah.

NOTABLE NOTE: It would appear that DISH is only showing the WSU-Idaho game on Pac-12 Washington via the the streaming link on the Pac-12 site (or the Pac-12 app). If you're a DISH customer, your only option to watch WSU-Idaho live looks to be to go here at tip off time: CLICK HERE.

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