Hoops: WSU looking to avoid making history

WASHINGTON STATE (9-3, 1-9 Pac-12) will be looking to avoid making history on Saturday at home. A loss to Arizona State would be the Cougs’ ninth in a row.

That would tie a nine-game losing streak from the 2012-13 season.

A loss to ASU would also mean WSU would have to win six of its final seven games just to match its Pac-12 win total from last season (seven).  It would also pose this inevitable question: How far back do you have to go to find a WSU hoops losing streak of 10 games?

Welcome to the Paul Graham era, 13 seasons ago, during the 2002-03 campaign.  The Cougs lost their first 14 conference games, before beating Oregon State and UW.  They finished the season 7-20 overall, 2-16 in conference play.

If the Cougs are to bust the losing streak on Saturday, ASU (12-11, 2-8) appears a decent candidate, sitting in 11th place in the Pac-12.  

ASU is coming off an overtime loss on the road to Washington and if that's not a recipe for tired legs, the ungodly amount of fouls called in that game is (60). The Sun Devils are a 2 1/2 point favorite on the road (3:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks). 

Meanwhile, the Sun Devils and first-year head coach Bobby Hurley are no doubt looking at WSU as just the tonic to cure their ills. The beat the Cougars 84-73 in Tempe on Jan. 14 for their first conference win of the season. Arizona State has dropped five of its last six games since.

Washington State center Valentine Izundu could finally return Saturday after missing the last eight games with a foot injury.

That would certainly help the Cougs' interior defense but his importance also shouldn't be overstated - in the 14 contests Izundu has played this season, he's only averaged 15.9 minutes per game.

--Saturday's game doesn't figure to be a defensive masterpiece. Washington State is allowing opponents 76.1 ppg, 10th in the Pac-12 and ranking 275th out of 346 teams, according to the official NCAA stat book. ASU isn't a whole lot better, at 74.0 ppg (9th in Pac-12). UCLA (77.0) and UW (80.2) are 11th and 12th in the Pac-12 in scoring defense.

--Josh Hawkinson leads the  Cougs in scoring and rebounding with 15.9 and 11.0 boards a game. Ike Iroegbu is sneaking up on Hawkinson, with 15.1 ppg. He also leads the Cougs with 3.9 assists per game.

-- It's been repeated ad nauseam this season that someone besides Hawk and Ike need to step up on the scoring end. But this puts it in the starkest of terms: Only twice this season has someone other than Hawkinson or Iroegbu led WSU in either scoring or rebounding.

--Saturday marks the 77th all-time meeting between Washington State and Arizona State. The Sun Devils lead the series 40-36.  WSU holds a 23-13 advantage at home and has won eight of the last 10 over ASU in Pullman.

-- KenPom assigns ASU with an 57 percent chance of winning Saturday's tilt, and predicts  a 77-75 Cougar loss.

--Starting lineups used this season by Ernie Kent:
Hawkinson, Clifford, Iroegbu, Callison, Johnson (6)
Hawkinson, Izundu, Iroegbu, Callison, Johnson (5)
Longrus, Hawkinson, Iroegbu, Callison, Johnson (3)
Longrus, Hawkinson, Iroegbu, Redding, Boese (3)
Longrus, Izundu, Iroegbu, Callison, Johnson (2)
Longrus, Hawkinson, Iroegbu, Redding, Johnson (1)
Longrus, Hawkinson, Iroegbu, Daniels, Callison (1)
Longrus, Hawkinson, Boese, Iroegbu, Callison (1)

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