WSU heads to Moscow for matchup with Vandals

Cougars will play Idaho for 112th consecutive season when teams take court Wednesday


EZEKIEL NELSON | Daily Evergreen File

Junior forward Robert Franks creates separation from a defender on University of California, Davis during a game on Dec. 2 in Beasley Coliseum.

DYLAN GREENE, Evergreen assistant sports editor

WSU men’s basketball will make the short trip over the Washington-Idaho border for a game against University of Idaho on Wednesday in Moscow.

The Cougars (6-1) are coming off their first loss of the season against University of California, Davis on Saturday. After the game, several of the players and Head Coach Ernie Kent said the team played lethargic and lacked energy.

Junior guard Viont’e Daniels said he could tell before the game that the team was a little off.

“I kind of felt like our pregame was a little shaky,” Daniels said. “Credit to UC Davis they come out and played hard, that’s a tournament team sitting over there. We missed shots, a lot of them, open ones to start the game off and they just played harder than us.”

Sophomore guard Malachi Flynn said the team worked on their mindset and focus in practice this week to make sure they don’t perform like that again.

“The biggest thing is just coming ready to play, we didn’t do that against UC Davis,” Flynn said.

Idaho (5-2) is fresh off a victory over Nicholls State University on Sunday. The Vandals are led by senior guards Perion Callandret and Victor Sanders. The two players have combined to score 228 of the team’s 513 total points this season.

Sanders has tallied 22 points or more in four of the seven games the Vandals have played this season.

Daniels said the team is aware of Idaho’s two guards and will be looking to slow them down come game time.

“They’re good players, they can do it on the offensive end and the defensive end,” Daniels said. “They’re both shooting it at a high clip for the season so we just want to limit their touches and make sure we’re on them as soon as they catch the ball.”

Junior forward Robert Franks is the leading scorer for the Cougars so far this season. He has racked up 143 points so far and is averaging over 20 points per game. Franks has also made half of the 42 three-pointers he has attempted this year.

Flynn said Franks hasn’t hesitated to shoot when his teammates pass him the ball, which has helped him perform better this season.

“I think the biggest thing for him has been his confidence level this year, it’s really high right now,” Flynn said. “We’re definitely going to need that all season.”

WSU sophomore forward Jeff Pollard has seen an uptick in his minutes coming off the bench as the Cougars’ season has gone on, after missing the first three due to injury. He has played just 57 minutes total in those four games, but racked up 29 points with a 52.6 percent field goal percentage.

Pollard said he tries to do whatever he can for the team when his name is called to enter the game.

“When I come out on the floor, you know it might be six to seven minutes into the game and everyone’s kind of getting tired,” Pollard said, “and just to come in there and be a spark off the bench, bring the energy up and keep us attacking.”

Wednesday’s matchup will mark the 112th consecutive season that the two teams have met.

Daniels said the team is looking forward to playing on the Vandals’ home court and taking part in the historic rivalry.

“It’s a 100-year rivalry, we’re taking it as a big game and I know they’re taking it as a big game, so we just got to come out hard and ready to go,” Daniels said.

Pollard said winning this game would help the team rebound from the first loss of the season.

“This is a bounce back game for us. This is our chance to come back, not lose two in a row, get back on track and get to 7-1,” Pollard said.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Cowan Spectrum.