Men’s basketball heads on road for pair of games

Cougars will play two games in three nights on road trip



WSU redshirt freshman guard Milan Acquaah drives to the basket against Stanford at Beasley Coliseum. WSU lost 79-70,

JACKSON GARDNER, Evergreen reporter

WSU men’s basketball will seek its first win as it crosses the Rocky Mountains to take on the University of Colorado on Thursday. The Cougars will then travel to Salt Lake City on Saturday for a matchup with the University of Utah.

Historically, the Cougars (9-8, 1-4) did not fare well on the road in either Boulder or Salt Lake City. Since Colorado and Utah joined the Pac-12 in 2011, WSU has yet to get a win on either one of their home courts.

WSU Head Coach Ernie Kent acknowledged the effects of the two games in high altitude and said winning both games will be a tall task for his team.

“That second game always gets you. I don’t care in what order that you play, it is going to bother you,” Kent said. “That’s the way it is. We went in there one year and played fast one game then slow the other game and had a lot of success, so that might be something I look at and see how that goes.”

But even with the high altitudes, the Cougars’ lack of success in the mountains has nothing to do with fatigue, Kent said.

“The last few years it’s just been talent. They have just been better basketball teams than us, although if I look back to last year we played them extremely tough,” Kent said. “I thought we were in a position to win at Utah for sure, and we had an opportunity at Colorado, so we’ve had some games that are close there but haven’t been able to get over the hump.”

Colorado (11-7, 3-3) depends heavily on the production of their backcourt, which features freshman guard McKinley Wright IV and senior guard George King. The two guards account for over a third of the Buffaloes’ total points per game.

It will be up to WSU junior guard Viont’e Daniels and sophomore point guard Malachi Flynn to lock down the Buffs’ shooters. However, Kent said defending opposing perimeter players has proved to be problematic for WSU as well.

“Where we have to get better is neutralizing guards,” Kent said. “Guards cannot have career nights on you . . . that’s not good for us, so that’s an area I think we’ve got to get better at.”

The trip to Boulder and Salt Lake City is a part of a larger five-game stretch that will truly test the Cougars. After the two games in the Rockies, WSU will visit Montlake to play University of Washington. When the Cougars return, they will host No. 14 University of Arizona, followed by No. 16 Arizona State University.

Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday at Coors Event Center. The game will also be telecast live on Pac-12 Networks.