Kent: WSU scheduling just right before 'Zags

ERNIE KENT said Monday if Washington State (4-0) topples mid-major Gonzaga in Pullman on Wednesday night (8 p.m., Fox Sports 1) it will be because of the momentum and confidence gained through stay-at-home scheduling in non conference play. There is, of course, a flip side to that coin.

If Washington State instead loses to Gonzaga (4-1) is it because the Cougs’ four non conference games didn’t provide enough competition ahead of a top 15 team in Game 5?

“Our schedule looks like everyone else’s this year. (It) has been crucial in all this early season success. And if we’re fortunate enough to compete and beat a Gonzaga, it’s because the schedule has given us the opportunity to gain some confidence early on,” said Kent on Monday’s Cougar Calls with Bill Moos.

Washington State has outscored their four opponents 80-65 this season (Northern Arizona, Idaho State, Cal State LA, Texas Southern).  The quartet are a combined 4-16 with two, CSLA and Texas Southern, winless.

WSU has played some good basketball “in spots” early on this season, said Kent, with so many new faces on the team still adjusting to their roles and responsibilities.  The next step, Kent said, it to play "locked in" possession by possession, for a full game. It's also, he said, a requisite for beating Gonzaga and winning in the Pac-12.

“We haven't seen it on a consistent basis for 40 minutes," said Kent. "It's been there for 20, it's been there for 30... It's a mental thing. It's the last piece that we have to get to."

Gonzaga has a formidable front line which Kent will look to counter, in part, with star forward Josh Hawkinson and two new crimson tree-toppers: Conor Clifford (7-0, 283) and Valentine Izundu (6-10, 235).  Hawkinson is 6-10, 232-pounds.

“I don’t know if we have anybody as big as (Przemek) Karnowski (7-1, 287). We're probably as big as anybody in the Pac-12, but yet Gonzaga is bigger... it's exactly what we need, an opponent of this caliber that allows us to play at a different mental intensity level to bring our team up," said Kent.

We'll have much more on WSU-Gonzaga ahead of Wednesday's game here on CF.C.

--Wednesday will be the 150th meeting between the two schools -- and potentially the last.  Moos said on his radio show back in October that Gonzaga was looking to discontinue the series after the Dec. 2 tilt.  In the last contract between the two schools, Gonzaga insisted upon a three-game contract with a 2-1 home advantage: one game at Gonzaga and one game at Spokane Arena with the third, Wednesday's tilt, in Pullman.

--WSU leads the all-time series 98-51. Gonzaga has won four in a row and 13 of the past 16 meetings.

--Last time: Gonzaga beat Washington State 81-66 in Spokane.

--Kent is 5-11 all-time against Gonzaga as head coach at Saint Mary’s, Oregon and WSU.

--Moos said because of his schedule he had not yet had a chance to see the Cougs play live this season.

--It's early but through four games, the Cougs have 28 blocks (second nationally and tops in the Pac-12).

--WSU’s 4-0 start is its best since opening the 2010-11 season at 5-0.  That year, WSU beat Southern, Idaho, Portland, Fresno State and Sacramento State before falling 63-58 to No. 5 Kansas State. The Cougs finished 22-13 (9-9 Pac-10).

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