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WSU takes on Santa Clara to finish up non-conference schedule

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Yes, there is a basketball game today.

Point guard Ahmed Ali.
William Mancebo/Getty Images

Now that you’ve come down from the high of an Alamo Bowl win that could potentially propel the Washington State Cougars football team into the top 10 of the season-ending poll, it’s time to settle in for some hot men’s basketball action between your No. 159 Cougs and No. 217 Santa Clara Broncos.

Tip off is scheduled for 11 a.m. from the Spokane Arena and if you’re inclined to stay home, you can watch it on Pac-12 Networks or Pac-12.com or the Pac-12 Now app on your favorite streaming device.

The Cougs (7-5) are a five-point favorite against their WCC foe via kenpom.com’s simulations, however, games away from Beasley Coliseum haven’t been kind to WSU — the Cougs are 0-5 in such games, including losses to Seattle U (in Kent) and Montana State (in Kennewick). A morning game in front of practically nobody in a big arena isn’t likely to do WSU any favors.

Additionally, Santa Clara (7-6) has figured some things out after starting 0-4 and absorbing beatings from UC Irvine, Washington and Minnesota. The Broncos are now riding a four-game winning streak, which includes an overtime win over the USC Trojans and blowouts over Sonoma State, Mississippi Valley State and Idaho. There’s a case to be made that they’re better than their current ranking.

Santa Clara’s defense doesn’t stack up very well in adjusted efficiency, however, they’re pretty good at defending shots, ranking 60th in effective field goal percentage against. What kills their efficiency is a lack of turnovers and a propensity to give up offensive rebounds and put their opponent on the line.

Interestingly, they don’t allow very many three-point attempts from their opponents — just 30 percent of field goal attempts are threes, eighth fewest in the country. If WSU is determined to shoot lots of threes, it’ll probably be with hands in their faces. And if they miss a bunch of those, and then add in a few too many turnovers ... it’s not hard to see this one shaping up as an offensive dud. The Cougs will likely need to be aggressive to the basket to take advantage of Santa Clara’s fouling — something that hopefully will come naturally, given that they’ve spent a ton of time at the line in the last handful of games.

Defensively, WSU is facing yet another team that’s excellent from three-point range. Three different players — Tahj Eaddy, Keshawn Justice and Josh Martin — have shot 38 percent or better from deep with at least 38 attempts. Martin, in particular, is going to be an interesting player for WSU to defend. The one-time Bothell High School standout is a load on the glass and will take his many to the arc repeatedly.

So, like so many other WSU games, this one is probably going to be decided by who shoots how often from three and who makes more of them. No shocker there.