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Cougar men stay in Pullman for home opener

WSU players hoping speed helps against tall Texas Southern team

Then+senior+guard+Charles+Callison+dodges+an+Arizona+State+University+defender+during+his+Feb.+18+matchup+against+the+Sun+Devils.+WSU+won+86-71.
Then senior guard Charles Callison dodges an Arizona State University defender during his Feb. 18 matchup against the Sun Devils. WSU won 86-71.

Then senior guard Charles Callison dodges an Arizona State University defender during his Feb. 18 matchup against the Sun Devils. WSU won 86-71.

JESSICA HARJA | Daily Evergreen file

JESSICA HARJA | Daily Evergreen file

Then senior guard Charles Callison dodges an Arizona State University defender during his Feb. 18 matchup against the Sun Devils. WSU won 86-71.

AVERY COOPER, Evergreen reporter

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WSU men’s basketball won its exhibition opener 85-74 against Saint Martin’s University on Sunday. The team’s first regular season test will be against Texas Southern University. The Tigers made the NCAA tournament last season.

A win to start off the regular season would be a boost for a young team, junior forward Robert Franks said.

“For us to get rolling early, it would mean so much, for the young guys, too,” he said. “We don’t want to lose a game in non-conference like we did last year to a team that we were more capable of beating, and on our home floor.”

Texas Southern has a lot of experience, Head Coach Ernie Kent said, despite multiple players leaving the program after losing to North Carolina in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“You’ll get an experienced team,” he said. “They don’t have everybody back, but they have enough of the key players back. That’ll make them unique to us because they’re a tournament-tested team.”

The Tigers have 10 players on their 15-man roster who are six-foot-four-inches or taller. The tallest is redshirt junior center Trayvon Reed, who is seven-foot-two-inches, and 240 pounds.

“He’s going to be a load for us to handle,” Kent said of Reed. “The biggest thing with someone that size is you gotta pay attention to keeping them off of the glass because he can cause us a lot of problems if he’s getting easy put-backs.”

Kent also emphasized how much defense in practice will mean when trying to slow down a taller team.

“It will be a lot of defense — and a lot more defense,” Kent said. “Obviously, we’re really going to work on rebounding the ball, they’ve got great size on their team.”

Sophomore guard Malachi Flynn expects to outrun the lengthy Texas Southern players for baskets after getting a defensive stop.

“We gotta go out and get stops like we did against Saint Martin’s, and run out,” Flynn said. “I’m sure we’ll be faster than them if they’re so tall.”

Flynn also says that as a guard, challenging the Tigers will have a lot to do with effective angles when passing the ball.

A couple of the taller Cougar athletes, such as senior forward Drick Bernstine and junior forward Davante Cooper are expected to return to the court this season.

“Once we get Coop and Drick back, it’ll be even better to have more size down low,” Franks said.

After the win against Saint Martin’s, Kent said the return of Cooper and Bernstine should help with the team needing to do a better job with rebounds.

“The biggest indicator to me that I thought we needed to work on was rebounding,” he said. “That will take care of itself in a sense as we get our bigger guys back to practice.”

On Cooper, Kent said that he has a chance to play against the Tigers.

“As long as we don’t see him take any steps backwards, we’re planning on him being available on Sunday to get us some limited minutes,” Kent said.

The Cougars will open up their regular season against Texas Southern at 1 p.m. Sunday in Beasley Coliseum.

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