THIS WEEK IN WSU HOOPS

HOW DO THE Cougs solve the riddle that is No. 8 Gonzaga? They have size, with a pair of 6-10 and 7-1 starting juniors and the first guy off the bench to spell them is 6-10. The Zags’ three senior guards are all shooting the ball very well, with one of them above 50 percent. And their defense is allowing just 59.5 ppg. So how do you attack them if you're WSU? Well, for starters …

The Cougs need to have a plan for Kyle Wiltjer, the 6-10 junior who transferred from Kentucky. In his first year with GU, he's taken more shots (96) than anyone else on the team.

As important as defense is, if the Cougs are to pull off a huge upset, the underpinnings are probably going to be found on the offensive end and in transition.

The guess here is Ernie Kent continues to stick with freshman guard Ny Redding at the point and sophomore guard Ike Iroegbu (pictured above) at the two - the crimson duo looked like they might have found a groove in the 20-point win over UTSA.

Senior guard DaVonte Lacy also enters this week with some momentum after a slow start to the season. Lacy finally had a good shooting night this past Saturday, hitting on 10-15 shots and going for a game-high 31 points. He'll be the focal point for Gonzaga on defense, he'll need to work hard to get open and other Cougs need to hit their shots.

Kent said he doesn't mind going up to Spokane for what is essentially a second-straight home game for the Zags in the series. Few and AD Mike Roth Due threatened to end the 107-year old rivalry with Washington State unless the Cougars agreed to a three-year contract with two of the games in Spokane.

“That was something they worked out last year so for me that has a non-factor with me,” Kent said. “I don’t even worry about that stuff. It’s a game that’s on our schedule that we have to play, they’re an outstanding basketball team.”

Kent said it will serve as good preparation for Pac-12 play.

“Home and road, to play that type of talent, that type of size, to play in that environment with that energy in the building,” Kent said. “All of this is good, there’s nothing negative about going up there and playing a game.”

Well, of course there is given the imbalance of the three-year deal, but Kent's point is understandable.

The tip-off: Washington State (4-4) vs Gonzaga (7-1) Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014 at 8 p.m. PST at the Spokane Arena in Spokane, Wash. The game will be televised on ESPNU and online at WatchESPN.

The rankings: Gonzaga is ranked No. 8 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, No. 9 in the AP poll. Ken Pomeroy has a huge disparity between the two teams, with the Bulldogs ranked No. 10 and the Cougars ranked No. 216 in his 2015 College Basketball Ratings.

The line: The Cougars are 23 1/2 point underdogs.

About Gonzaga: Kent has said this Gonzaga (7-1) team is the best in Few's 16 seasons at the helm. They're led by senior point guard Kevin Pangos who’s averaging 11.8 ppg this season. If that point total looks low, you're right, Pangos has averaged a higher point total in all three of his previous seasons. But look closer and you'll see Pangos at this early stage is having the best season of his career.

Pangos is shooting 53.4 percent through eight games, that's more than 10 percentage points above his career average coming into the season. He's taking less shots and dishing out more assists -- his 5.9 apg dwarfs his first three seasons' average of 3.43. Pangos dropped 27 points against the Cougars last season and hit a buzzer beater lay-up against the Cougars in 2012 to give the Zags a victory in Pullman.

Joining Pangos in the Zags' backcourt is senior guard Gary Bell Jr. He averages 10.5 points a game and is connecting on 47.3 percent of his shots. Gonzaga's third starting guard, USC transfer Byron Wesley, is hitting on 44.8 percent of his attempts and averaging 11.1 ppg. Wesley averaged 17.8 points a game for the Trojans last season.

So it's a highly balanced, experienced backcourt. The Cougs will have a tall task to try and guard them tight enough on the defensive end and to get transition points on the other end before they can get set.

So, with all that talent, who’s the toughest player to defend on the Zags?

“You can kind of pick your poison, they’re all tough to me,” Kent said. “I don’t think you can let any of them go off and have a monster night, yet they have several players- Pangos is capable of doing that, Byron Wesley and Wiltjer is capable.”

Gonzaga boasts five players scoring in double figures this season - Wiltjer (15.9); Domantas Sabonis (11.8); Pangos, Wesley and Bell Jr. They average 84.9 points a game (No. 13 nationally). The Bulldogs are also shooting 52.8 percent from the field, sixth in the country.

Coach Kent didn’t want to reveal anything, including his starting lineup, on Tuesday, simply saying the Cougs need to win the mental battle if they want to find success in Spokane on Wednesday.

“It doesn’t matter what you’re game-planning, whether you’re going to slow, fast, zone, box, triangle and two, whatever,” Kent said. “If we don’t go up there and play with a lot of confidence, if we don’t go up there and shoot the ball, it’s going to be a long night for us regardless of what we do.”

The series: The Cougars lead the series 98-50. Wednesday night will be the 149th meeting between the Cougars and Bulldogs. Gonzaga has won 12 of the last 15. Last season Gonzaga defeated the Cougars 90-74 at McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane. WSU sophomore guard Ike Iroegbu scored 20 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished four. Gonzaga will (finally) come to Pullman again for the first time since 2012 next season.

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