WSU men’s basketball returns home

Evan Baron Evergreen Men's Basketball reporter

After being swept in the Bay Area last week, the WSU men’s basketball team will host the Oregon State Beavers and the Oregon Ducks this week with the hope of coming away with victories in both games.

The Cougars (8-10, 1-5) will begin their home stand tonight at 7 p.m. against the Beavers (10-7, 2-3). Then, WSU will face off against the Ducks 4 p.m. Sunday.

Here are three key areas the Cougars must execute in order to win their second Pac-12 conference game of the season.

Put up points:

In the past three games, WSU has scored fewer than 60 points a game and averaged 63.4 points a game on the year, which ranks 331st in the nation, according to espn.com. WSU men’s basketball Head Coach Ken Bone said in his weekly media briefing that the Beavers can score from a lot of different positions. Oregon State currently averages 77.9 points a game, which ranks 51st in the nation.

“We’ve shown so far we’re having a hard time scoring, so we’re going to have to do a great job at one end scoring the ball,” Bone said. “We’ve got to be able to score points, and at this point we’re averaging 49 (points) a game in conference, and that won’t beat too many teams.”

Without their leading scorer, junior guard DaVonte Lacy, the Cougars have one player averaging double figure scoring per game: redshirt freshman guard Que Johnson, who averages 10.6 points per game.

The Cougars need at least three players scoring in double figures if they want to win against the Beavers. In the past two games, only two players have scored in double figures, but the rest of the team struggled to find its rhythm offensively, which resulted in blowout losses on both occasions.

“As a team I think we shoot really good shots, they just don’t fall at times, so we just got to keep our heads up and keep playing,” said WSU freshman guard Ike Iroegbu.

Playing with consistency:

So far this season, during conference play, Johnson has been the Cougars’ only consistent player, with 14 average points per game. The rest of the team has failed to contribute on any sort of steady basis.

“A number of guys need to be able to play at a high level consistently,” Bone said. “You know Dexter’s (Kernich-Drew) had a couple of good shooting games here and there, Royce (Woolridge) had a couple games where he’s really distributed the ball, Ike Iroegbu’s had a couple good games where he’s scored, D.J. (Shelton) the other night had a great game statistically and did a really good job on offense.”

Bone said because he plays a limited number of players, those players who do manage to see time on the floor need to find a way to get going.

The Cougars also will need to play a full 40 minutes of strong basketball. During past two games the team has come out strong and played well in the first half. However, they are essentially nowhere to be found in the second half, which is when the games begin to get out of hand.

“We just got to keep up the energy, we got to keep playing at that level even when things don’t go our way well on offense we can’t let it affect us defensively,” said WSU redshirt junior Royce Woolridge.

Stay Focused:

Even though the Cougars have lost five Pac-12 games so far in the season and were just swept in the Bay Area, the team must move on and focus on getting a win against Oregon State.

“It’s real important (to stay focused) because if we put our heads down and be sad all the time we can’t get wins,” Iroegbu said. “Right now we’re half-way through league (play) and we’re just looking to turn things around and start getting wins.”

Being one of the older players on the team, Woolridge said he has told the players on the team to keep their heads up and stay focused, along with keeping up the intensity the team played with in the first half against the Bay Area schools.