The Washington State Cougars look to bounce back from a tough loss at UCLA when they head across town to face the USC Trojans on Saturday (5 pm PT, Pac-12 Network). The Trojans snapped a three-game losing streak on Thursday by taking down the Washington Huskies.
These two teams kicked off Pac-12 play against each other in an ugly defensive battle that saw WSU’s CJ Elleby go 3-22 from the field. The rest of the Cougs couldn’t pick up the slack, and even with a solid defensive performance, they couldn’t keep up with the Trojans and ultimately fell 65-56.
USC has been stifling on defense for many teams in the Pac-12—posting the third-best defensive efficiency in conference play. The Trojans have struggled to rebound and don’t force many turnovers, but they get opposing teams to take bad shots—USC is 2nd in 3-point percentage allowed and third in 2-point percentage allowed.
That’s a tough matchup for WSU, who has rarely been able to get things going inside against better defensive teams. The Cougs have relied on 3s in league play—hitting 36 percent. It will be interesting to see if WSU’s long range shooting, or USC’s 3-point defense will hold up—the 3-point line can be one of the hardest things to predict in college basketball (Hi, did you see Jeff Pollard on Thursday?).
When USC has the ball, WSU will need to figure how to slow down Onyeka Okongwu. He put up an easy 27 on the Cougs back in January, needing just 14 shots. It was interior defense that failed Wazzu down the stretch against UCLA, and that will be put to the test again.
WSU will need more from Elleby if it is going to upset USC on the road. It will also need big games from other players. Rebounding will be a battle against the big Trojan frontline, and something will need to be done to get the ball out of Okongwu’s hands.
If you are looking to follow the game, the WSU basketball twitter account has you covered with TV, stream, stats, and radio info: