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Hoops: Does Washington State's season end today?

WILL THE Washington State men's basketball season come to an end today? Well, the Cougars are a nine-point underdog to Colorado in Las Vegas, the Pac-12 tournament is single elimination format and the Cougs haven’t won in their last 16 tries. So this just in: the odds of moving onto the tournament's second round are not in Washington State’s favor.

Washington State (9-21, 1-17) can take some measure of confidence into Wednesday’s game (2:40 pm, Pac-12 Networks) in that its played Colorado (21-10, 10-8) close this season, falling 75-70 in Pullman and 88-81 in double OT in Boulder.

In the last meeting, if not for a WSU missed free throw and a prayer of a Buffalo 3-pointer (pictured above) WSU would have snapped its losing streak at nine games.  But it’s also worth noting Colorado played that game without Josh Scott, the 6-10 senior forward who was named first-team All-Pac-12 and is the Buffs’ leading scorer (16.5 ppg).

Perhaps more relevant than the head-to-head matchups has been Washington State’s inability to score in the season’s second half as the weight of the losing streak has increased.

In its last 10 games, WSU has scored in the 40s and 50s on five occasions, and in the 60s on three others.

WSU’s defense (believe it or not) has been the bigger problem. And so Ernie Kent has slowed things down in trying to give WSU its best chance to win. It hasn’t worked, and guard Ike Iroegbu’s production has in turn fallen off a cliff – WSU’s No. 2 scorer has scored less than 10 points in six of the last seven games.

Kent has said Iroegbu plays his best when the Cougs play with tempo. Colorado wants to beat Washington State with defense and rebounding, with the strength of its team in the frontcourt.  WSU trying to limit the number of possessions on Wednesday might just be playing right into Colorado’s hands.

Kent has talked often in the weeks leading up to the tourney about how it’s an opportunity for a fresh start for the Cougars. He's said WSU is as rested and healthy as its been since conference play began and that everyone in the Pac-12 is 0-0 heading into the tournament.  That begs the question if the Cougs will try and surprise Colorado and play fast. After 16 straight defeats mostly featuring large deficits at halftime, why not throw caution to the wind?

WSU forward Josh Hawkinson figures to put up a double-double or close to it against the Buffs but for the Cougs to have any shot, Que Johnson needs to show the same form that’s led to his scoring in double figures nine of the last 11 games. 

The winner advances to face No. 4 seed Arizona in Thursday's quarterfinals.   Washington State is seeking its first victory in the conference tournament since 2009.  A loss would mean the hoops team would finish with the same number of wins, nine, as the Cougar football team.

QUOTABLE:
“We’ve got a lot more at stake…than Washington State does. There’s no doubt about it.”
-Colorado coach Tad Boyle


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