THIS WEEK IN WSU HOOPS: Make or break time?

PULLMAN- It’s make or break time for the WSU men’s basketball team -- on and off the basketball court. After playing three games in seven days, the WSU men’s basketball team is busy with finals this week. But they also must also prep for a Sunday home tilt against San Jose State. And given the recent developments surrounding SJSU, the term "must-win" comes into play for the Cougs.

SJSU indefinitely suspended five players, including their top four scorers, last week ahead of a 54-38 loss to Seattle University and had to pull from the football team just to suit up eight players. The five were suspended due to an undisclosed team rules violation and might not be reinstated by Sunday's tilt. And with Washington State at 4-6 and Pac-12 play coming up fast, Ernie Kent and crew need any momentum they can get.

About San Jose State: The Spartans are 2-9 on the season. Of San Jose State's meager 38 points against SU, freshman guard Darryl Gaynor II had 20 of them, shooting six of 13 from behind the three-point line.

The Spartans have four players averaging in double figures this season, with sophomore guard Rashad Muhammad leading the way at 12.1 ppg. But neither he nor any of the top four SJSU scorers played last week. (The other Spartan players averaging in double figures are junior guard Jordan Baker [10.6 ppg] and junior forward Frank Rogers [10.4 ppg]. Jaleel Williams is averaging 9.0 ppg.)

According to the Mercury News, the length of the suspensions are unknown but they're thought to run at least through the WSU game. So in their game prep, Kent and the Cougs are expected to be in the dark about whether Muhammad, Baker, Rogers, Williams and/or Matt Pollard will see the floor on Sunday.

The Cougars dropped two of three on the road last week but if you're looking for silver linings, the backcourt duo of true freshman point guard Ny Redding and second-year sophomore guard Ike Iroegbu is evolving quickly. Redding has done a nice job at being the quarterback of Kent’s system. And that's made Iroegbu the up-and-coming receiver scoring a lot of TDs.

Ever since he was moved off the point to the two, Iroegbu has averaged 11.8 points a game. He'll still run some point and has had his moments leading the break, but with a more consistent jumper (and confidence), Iroegbu is starting to develop into one of the Cougs' primary scorers. Meanwhile, Redding handled himself well against a top 10 team in Gonzaga in both transition and the half-court (8 pts, 4 assists)

This is still a very young backcourt, however, and there will be more growing pains for both they and the Cougs overall. So what about DaVonte Lacy, who has hit perhaps more peaks and valleys so far this season than any other Coug?

“We didn’t anticipate him averaging the same amount that he averaged last year, just because it’s a system that the ball is shared so much and other people score in this system,” Kent said. “You don’t have to run so many set plays for him where people can sit on him and say, ‘Let's just take out DaVonte it’ll shut their offense down.’”

Still, Lacy is shooting 38 percent from the field, 35.1 percent from downtown through 10 games. Last season he shot 42.9 percent and 39.0 percent from the floor, respectively.

The tip-off: Washington State (4-6) vs San Jose State (2-9) Sunday, Dec. 21 at 4 p.m. PST at Beasley Coliseum. The game will be televised on Pac-12 Networks. J.B. Long (play-by-play) and Lamar Hurd (color analyst) have the call.

The rankings: Ken Pomeroy has the Cougars ranked No. 218 and San Jose State at No. 333 in his 2015 College Basketball Rankings.

The series: The Cougars lead 7-2. The last time the Spartans and Cougars squared off was on Nov. 23, 2002 at Beasley Coliseum. WSU defeated San Jose State 76-68.

For Kent's weekly presser, CLICK HERE

WSU hosts SJSU Sunday and then closes out the non-conference slate vs. UC Davis on Dec. 28. The Cougs' first three Pac-12 games are all on the road over an eight-day period: Stanford on Jan. 2; Cal on Jan. 4 and Washington on Jan. 10. The three WSU opponents are a combined 22-3.

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