This week in WSU hoops: Pac-12 tourney awaits

SHORTSTAYSVILLE? Heartbreak Tournament? Not here for a long time, or a good time? Whatever clever (or not so clever) moniker you want to attach to the Pacific-12 men's basketball tournament for Washington State, it's easy to pick up on a theme.

The Cougars have never won more than one game at a Pac-12 tournament, either during the first run (1987-90) or since it was renewed in 2002. Currently, the Cougars would take a win, any sort of win, because they haven't experienced a Pac-12 tournament victory since 2009.

Washington State tries to break a five-game Pac-12 tournament losing streak Wednesday when the No. 9-seeded Cougars play No. 8 California in the tourney opener at 12:10 p.m. at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Since the tournament reappeared in 2002, the Cougars' collective record is 3-11. Combined with the Pac-12 tourney run from 1987-90, WSU's overall tournament record is 4-15.

Among the 11 losses are four by two points. WSU's current five-game losing streak has been particularly vexing, as four of the five losses have come by margins of 2, 2, 2 and 5 points.

If there's some good news, it's that Washington State has never played California in the Pac-12 tournament. And WSU coach Ernie Kent had plenty of success in the Pac-12 tournament, leading the Ducks to a pair of titles.

The Cougars have laid a few surprises on us this season, so why not a couple more this week?

The week ahead: Washington State (13-17, 7-11) takes on California (17-14, 7-11) in the tournament opener on Wednesday. All four games Wednesday are televised on the Pac-12 Networks.

If Washington State wins its opener, the reward is a Thursday quarterfinal game against league champion Arizona (28-3, 16-2) at 12:10 p.m. This game is also televised on the Pac-12 Network. We won't go past this, because if the Cougars win their first two tournament games, you'll be so drunk with happiness, the hangover may cause you to miss Friday's semifinals.

Technically, Washington State shared eighth place with California and Colorado at 7-11. But using the league tie-breaker, Cal gets No. 8 because it had the best head-to-head record against WSU and Colorado. Some have argued that Colorado came out with the best deal in the tourney, as the Buffaloes play Oregon State. But the Cougars have had no success against the Beavers this season, while they split with California.

This is certainly a winnable game for WSU. If the regular season means anything, this neutral court game should be very competitive, as Washington State and Cal won on the other team's court this season.

The Cougars took the game at Cal 69-66 on Jan. 4, but the Bears got revenge less than four weeks later in Pullman with a 76-67 win.

In the WSU win, Jordan Railey had one of his best games as a Cougar with 17 points, four rebounds and two blocked shots. Four WSU starters -- Railey, Josh Hawkinson, Ike Iroegbu and DeVonte Lacy -- combined for 61 of WSU's 69 points. Jordan Mathews led Cal with 24 points, but 12 came during the final 2:08.

At Pullman, the Cougars defense was a big letdown, as Cal shot 51 percent from the field. Tyrone Wallace scored 21 of his game-high 26 points during the first half, but it was Mathews again who tortured WSU late in the game. Hawkinson hit two free throws with 3:35 remaining to give WSU a 65-64 lead. Mathews, scoreless to that point, scored nine of Cal's final 12 points to lead the Bears. Lacy led WSU with 24 points, a performance that included 9 of 10 shooting from the free throw line.

Washington State out-rebounded Cal 38-34 in its win at Berkeley, but got out-boarded 40-32 in Pullman. Bears sophomore guard Jabari Bird didn't play in the first game, but collected eight rebounds the second time.

California is the streakiest team in the Pac-12 this season, and perhaps this is a good time to play the Bears, as they lost five of their final six games. Cal had a six-game losing streak and a five-game winning streak during the season.

PACIFIC-12 CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT

WEDNESDAY GAMES

Game 1: No. 8 California (17-14) vs. No. 9 Washington State (13-17), 12:10 p.m., Pac-12 Networks

Game 2: No. 5 Arizona State (17-14) vs. No. 12 USC (11-19), 2:40 p.m., Pac-12 Networks

Game 3: No. 7 Oregon State (17-13) vs. No. 10 Colorado (14-16), 6:10 p.m., Pac-12 Networks

Game 4: No. 6 Stanford (18-12) vs. No. 11 Washington (16-14), 8:40 p.m., Pac-12 Networks

THURSDAY GAMES

Game 5: No. 8-9 winner vs. No. 1 Arizona (28-3), 12:10 p.m., Pac-12 Networks

Game 6: No. 5-12 winner vs. No. 4 UCLA (19-12), 2:40 p.m., Pac-12 Networks

Game 7: No. 7-10 winner vs. No. 2 Oregon (23-8), 6:10 p.m., Pac-12 Networks

Game 8: No. 6-11 winner vs. No. 3 Utah (23-7), 8:40 p.m., ESPN

FRIDAY GAMES

Semifinal 1, 6:10 p.m., Pac-12 Networks

Semifinal 2, 8:45 p.m., ESPN

SATURDAY GAME

Championship, 8:05 p.m., ESPN

Read Nick Daschel’s occasional Pac-12 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel

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