USATodaySports/Camporeale

WSU vs. CU: Does the biggest bully win in Pac-12 tourney opener for the Cougs?

WASHINGTON STATE's basketball season will come to an end Wednesday if the Cougs can't solve Colorado's physical style of play (6 pm, Pac-12 Network). The last time these two teams played, Ernie Kent lamented just how badly the Cougs got pushed around.

So which Cougar team shows up Wednesday in Las Vegas?  The one that beat Colorado 91-89 in OT on Jan. 21 in Pullman?  Or the one that got manhandled 81-49 in Boulder on Feb. 12?

WSU committed 24 turnovers in the loss, its most since 2009 against Kansas State.  Meanwhile, Kent wasn't a fan of how the Feb. 12 game was called.

“It’s the most physical game we’ve played in. One of my comments to the officials: This is a different game than I’ve coached so far in this conference," Kent said then.

The focus Wednesday will be on Josh Hawkinson, Wazzu's leading scorer (15.6) and rebounder (10.1), and whether WSU can match Colorado's physical presence. Even in the Cougs' win, Colorado outscored WSU 40-26 in the paint. 

But how guards Ike Iroegbu (pictured above) and Charles Callison fare vs. Colorado might well decide this game. 

WSU strung together an uncharacteristic shooting night from 3-point range in the first game, hitting 13 of 26 from deep. Callison had a career night in the win over Colorado with 30 points, while Iroegbu poured in 20 points.  In the loss, the duo managed but nine and five points, respectively.  Ireogbu over his WSU career against Colorado (9 games) has scored the most points of any Cougar on the team, averaging 12.7 ppg against the Buffs.

Colorado (18-13/8-10) went 0-7 to start conference play, but is 8-3 since.   WSU (13-17/6-12) has the exact opposite record at 3-8 over the same time frame.

The Buffs are an 11-point favorite according to Las Vegas.  Kenpom.com predicts a 77-69 Colorado win.

The winner of Wednesday’s game will play No. 2 seed Arizona, ranked No. 7 nationally.

The Cougs haven't won a first round game in the Pac-12 tournament since 2009.  The last win was over Kent's Oregon Ducks.

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • Hawkinson was named the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Scholar Athlete of the Year on Wednesday. Hawkinson, who completed his undergraduate degree in management operations in just three years, currently maintains a 3.42 GPA in the MBA program at Washington State.
  • Loquacious Bill Walton is the TV color man on the WSU-Colorado broadcast.
  • This is the second year in a row Washington State and Colorado have met in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament. The Buffs won 80-56 last year.

RELATED: Callison unstoppable, Cougs hang on for OT win


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