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WSU vs. Cal basketball: Preview and Game Thread

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Washington State will look for a series split against the Bay Area schools this afternoon.

After an 84-54 manhandling courtesy of Stanford on Thursday night, the Washington State Cougars (9-7, 2-2) look to rebound from that 30-point loss with a win this afternoon against the California Golden Bears (12-5, 3-2).

The Bears’ conference schedule opened up with three of the first four games against ranked opponents, but Cal has fared well up to this point. With losses to No. 18 Arizona and No. 4 UCLA, the Bears did upset No. 25 USC on the road and took care of business at home against Arizona State and Washington giving them a respectable 3-2 start to the season.

In his third season as head coach, Cuonzo Martin has done an admirable job turning Mike Montgomery’s basketball program into his. Last season, the Bears received one f the No. 4 seeds in the NCAA tournament but were upset in the first round by Hawaii 77-66.

Led by Ivan Rabb (15.7 ppg) and Jabari Bird (14.3 ppg), the Bears have a strong supporting cast that has the potential to earn a first round bye at the Pac-12 tournament and, of course, a second straight berth to the NCAA Tournament.

While Josh Hawkinson will have his hands full with Rabb, Charlie Moore, Grant Mullins, and Bird can all burn the Cougars with their phenomenal three-point shooting. Mullins’ 44% shooting from behind the arc is not only the best on the team, but one of the highest percentages in the whole conference.

This won’t be an easy game for the Cougars, but it’ll be interesting to see how they respond after being embarrassed by Stanford just two nights ago. For the first time all season, freshman guard Malachi Flynn looked tired on Thursday and his performance showed it: 0-for-9 shooting without a single point recorded. The Cougars turned over the ball far too many times against the Cardinal, a team predicted to finish in the bottom half of the Pac-12. California is a far superior team to Stanford and the Cougars can’t afford a slow start that cost them the game on Thursday.

Cal is listed as a 16.5 point favorite this afternoon, so it won’t be an easy match-up for Washington State. However, if the Cougars can limit their turnovers and find ways to break through Cal’s defense, they have a shot of making this a game.