Cougars return to Beasley for first time since December

WSU looks to pick up first conference win over California teams



Then-redshirt freshman forward Arinze Chidom attempts a one handed layup in the home game win against Nicholls State Colonels on Sunday Nov. 11. WSU will return to Beasley Coliseum to face Cal on Thursday.

JOHN SPELLMAN, Evergreen reporter

After a tough start to conference play, the WSU men’s basketball team needs to take advantage of every opportunity they have to win.

Perhaps their best chance to do this will occur this week as WSU hosts the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford.

WSU (7-9, 0-3) returns home to Pullman, where the Cougs will play their first home games of conference play as they host the Golden Bears (5-11, 0-4) and the Cardinals (8-8, 1-3).

The Cougars return to Beasley Coliseum after going on the mountain road trip that pitted them against Colorado and Utah. Both games resulted in losses where WSU couldn’t keep the score close.

WSU, currently eleventh in the Pac-12 standings, has an opportunity to move up the standing against the Cal Golden Bears in a matchup of the only two Pac-12 teams remaining without a conference win.

The Cougars have yet to play a conference game this season with senior forward Robert Franks, the Pac-12 leading scorer, as he continues to nurse a hip injury. However, he will make his Pac-12 debut Thursday against Cal.

In his absence, WSU Head Coach Ernie Kent has been looking for some players to step up in that time. One of these players is freshman forward CJ Elleby, who has scored at least 20 points in the last two of three games.

“CJ is very unique,” Kent said. “He has a passion for the game that is unmatched because he loves it so much. He is playing really, really well, but we need to cut down his minutes now that we are getting Franks back so that can help him play even better.”

Elleby will have another opportunity to put up some big points as he goes up against a Cal team that has struggled mightily on defense this season. Cal is ranked 231st in the nation in adjusted defense, according to KenPom Rankings.

Despite their defensive struggles, the Golden Bears have been able to put together a dangerous offense. Sophomore forward Justice Sueing leads the team with 14.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

“[Sueing] has had a lot of success against a lot of people this year. We are going to have to change up our defensive looks to see if we can throw him off his game,” Kent said.

After taking on Cal, the Cougs will turn their attention to the Stanford Cardinals.

The Cardinals will take on the Washington Huskies on Thursday night before traveling east to Pullman.

Stanford comes off a big weekend in conference play as they handed the Arizona State Sun Devils their first conference loss. This comes just after they were narrowly defeated by the first-place Arizona Wildcats a few days prior.

Kent knows his team will have a challenge going against a physical team like Stanford.

“They are a big, physical team,” Kent said. “So we really need to keep them off the boards and control rebounds against them if we want to beat them at home.”

The Cougars host Cal Thursday at 7 p.m. before taking on Stanford at noon on Saturday, with both games being played in Beasley Coliseum.