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WSU vs. California: Preview, TV schedule, game thread

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Can the Cougs make it two wins out of three?

NCAA Basketball: California at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington State Cougars have what will be their only opportunity to secure a season sweep in Pac-12 play when they take on the California Golden Bears tonight in Berkeley for the right to sit in 11th place in the Pac-12.

The teams are tied at the bottom of the conference at 2-12.

Tip off is scheduled for 8 p.m. PT at the game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Network. You can also watch the game via streaming online at Pac-12.com or via the Pac-12 Now app on your favorite tablet or phone device.

The Cougs smacked around the Bears in the first matchup, a 78-53 victory in Pullman in which Robert Franks went ham from behind the arc, hitting a school record 10 three-pointers on his way to a season-high 34 points.

Cal is bad, which of course is a point in the Cougs’ favor tonight.

Counterpoint: The Cougs also are bad!

Particularly away from home. Outside of three neutral court wins in Fullerton, California — boy, those were the days! — WSU is 0-9 away from Beasley Coliseum, losing by an average of 18 points in those contests. Cal also has played tough at home as of late, losing to Stanford by just four in a game that came down to the final minutes. In their previous home game, the Bears beat Oregon State — the same Oregon State that beat WSU by 32 in Corvallis.

This is all to say that the Bears are highly unlikely to be a pushover, despite the lopsided result in the first matchup. Cal had a very bad day the first time around (even by their standards), flailing away offensively before basically giving up defensively at the end. It’ll be awfully surprising if that happens again.

Cal really only has two strengths — literally, only two: Rebounding its own misses (which are plentiful) and taking the ball away from the opponent.

The first time around, Cal rebounded nearly half of its misses, but somehow only converted that into 41 percent on twos. WSU probably won’t be so lucky this time around. Offensively, the Cougs need to take care of the ball. Cal is atrocious at everything other than forcing turnovers, so as long as WSU doesn’t shoot itself in the foot, the Cougs should be able to score pretty easily.

It’s anything but a given that WSU will be able to do those two things, though — again, particularly away from home — which is probably why Vegas currently shows Cal as a five-point favorite. Kenpom sees it as a coin flip, predicting Cal to win, 75-74.