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‘I think our guys are up for it’: WSU ready to continue tough stretch in LA

On the road again for WSU. This time, the Cougs are preparing for a tough pair of games in LA.

PULLMAN, WA - JANUARY 26: Washington State Men’s Basketball versus the Utah Utes at Beasley Coliseum - Washington State guard Jefferson Koulibaly (3), forward Efe Abogidi (0), and head coach Kyle Smith Jack Ellis/CougCenter

It seems like it was just a couple of days ago that WSU was taking on a top team in the Pac-12. And that’s because it was just a couple of days ago... And also a couple of days before that.

On Thursday night in LA, the Cougs will hit the floor at UCLA to play their fourth game in eight days. That’s a rough stretch. But it’s even rougher when you consider that three of those four teams are in position to go dancing this March, and another Tournament team, in USC, is on deck just a couple of days later.

It sounds like an NBA schedule, but head coach Kyle Smith says he thinks it might be even tougher than what the pros face.

“We’ve got more things to schedule than NBA guys, with academics and stuff like that” Smith told Matt Chazanow on his coaches show Tuesday. “It’s a challenge, but I think our guys are up for it.”

WSU’s current stretch of five games in 11 days is difficult, but it’s just the start of a gauntlet that the Cougs face down the home stretch. Including last weeks games against Arizona and Arizona State, WSU is set to finish their season with 10 games in 24 days. This games after a 24 day stretch in December and January that saw the team only take the court three times due to COVID issues.

“We’ve got to go through it, man. These are meaningful, pressure filled games,” Smith said. “Being in the hunt, that’s part of it. You want to be on the other side but sometimes there are some lessons to be learned.”

As Smith mentioned, the Cougs have their chance to make a mark during their final run. Not only are their dreams of a Tournament berth still technically alive, but WSU currently sits at 7-6 in conference play, in the middle of the Pac-12 standings and just two games behind fourth place and the final bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. It all starts with a game in Pauley Pavilion against a Final Four team with plenty of returning talent in UCLA.

“They’re really experienced, they’ve got postseason success, they don’t turn the ball over and they play really well together,” Smith said. “They’re really well coached, put together. They’re not going to beat themselves.”

WSU visits UCLA Thursday night at 8 P.M. on FS1.


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