THE COUGS WILL see a familiar face Sunday night when they meet Idaho in their penultimate tune-up to Pac-10 play. Guard Mac Hopson, who left the Cougs in search of more playing time two seasons ago, is leading the Vandals with 16.7 ppg. The Cougs look to face a team on the rise -- Idaho (6-5) is off to their best start since 1997-98 and the Vandals are a perfect 5-0 at home.
Idaho has a new coach this season and Don Verlin's early returns have given hoops fans in Moscow reason for optimism for the first time in many a moon.
"We've got athleticism and everything else," Mac Hopson
told GoVandals.net after Saturday's 67-46 win over Texas Southern. "We need to clean up some things, rebounding and defense and things like that, but overall we're getting better."
With Idaho having lost to Eastern Washington and Gonzaga, Hopson said both he and his Idaho teammates will be ready for their last regional non-conference opponent.
"..This is the last time we're gonna play a team from around (this area), so we've got a chance to redeem ourselves.. I think we're gonna come in here and try to get one. They're a good team, though. Well coached. Everything...Personally I want to win, but I'm not gonna put any pressure on myself. I'm just gonna go out there and try to do whatever my teammates need me to do to win.
"It's gonna be fun (Sunday)."
The game was moved up to a 5:05 pm tipoff earlier in the week.
Idaho is shooting 48.3 percent from the floor on the season and 37.8 percent from beyond the arc. WSU is at 44 and 32.8 percent, respectively.
UI forward Luciano de Souza leads Idaho in long distance shooting, having hit on 20 of 51 three pointers (39.2 percent). Hopson, who leads Idaho in points (16.9), assists (6), free throw percentage (74.1) and steals (1.5) is 13 for 29 from three-point range.
Defensively, Idaho is allowing opponents a field goals made percentage of 42.4 percent. Washington State had held opponents to a 33.7 percent clip.
The Cougs (7-3) have not played in eight days, a 70-51 victory over Montana State on Dec. 13.
Washington State holds a 156-107 series advantage between the two teams. The Cougs have won the last five straight against the Vandals.
Both Idaho and Washington State have struggled this season against top flight competition. Idaho lost to Michigan State by 38 points and to Gonzaga by 34. Their other three losses, to Eastern Washington, Portland and South Carolina State, have come by an average of 6.6 points.