Returning home after a disastrous road trip to Oregon — combined margin of defeat: minus-59 — the Washington State Cougars have what is their best chance in some time to win a game when the Colorado Buffaloes visit Beasley Coliseum tonight.
Tip off is set for 8 p.m. PT from Pullman on Pac-12 Network. You can also find the game streaming online via Pac-12.com (if you have a subscription).
The Cougs have lost seven consecutive games, a stretch that started with a nine-point loss in Boulder — the closest loss of the seven. The return trip provides an opportunity, as the Cougars have been better at home and the Buffaloes have been markedly worse on the road.
In the first contest, WSU fell way behind, trailing by as many as 21 in the second half before storming back under a barrage of threes. The Cougs pulled within five points with eight minutes to go, but a 12-0 run by the Buffaloes put the game to bed.
In that one, the Cougars allowed the Buffs to score 82 points in just 68 possessions. That 1.20 points per possession clip remains far and away Colorado’s best offensive performance in Pac-12 play. (One of many teams that get to say that after playing WSU, but I digress.) Five different players scored for the Buffaloes, including freshman point guard McKinley Wright, who was especially devastating: 17 points, five assists, four rebounds, two steals.
The Buffs score about 1.04 points per possession against average defenses; it’s critical that the Cougs figure out a way to be something approaching average on the defensive end, given that they’re likely to find scoring difficult against Tad Boyle’s unit — Colorado has the top shooting defense in the conference, and the Cougs are almost entirely shooting dependent.
Tonight would be a real good time for WSU to remember how to take care of the basketball. Colorado doesn’t force many turnovers, and they weren’t able to coax many out of the Cougs in Boulder, a large part of the reason WSU was able to score 1.07 points per possession despite shooting 38 percent on 2s.
The other reason, of course, was that WSU hit on 44 percent of its 34 three-point attempts.
If the Cougs can replicate that to some degree while finding some semblance of defense (or just dumb shooting defense luck), they have a good chance to break the losing streak tonight.
Also, more Robert Franks please. He appears to be a full go after sitting out the last game with a knee injury.
Kenpom forecasts this as a game WSU would win four of 10 times with a predicted final score of 73-70, Colorado.