WSU takes on Colorado in the Pac-12 Tournament

WSU players celebrate with Cougar fans after beating UW on Feb. 26. 

From staff reports

The No. 10 seed WSU men’s basketball team (13-17) will play the No. 7 seed University of Colorado (18-13) in the first round of the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament at 6 p.m. tomorrow in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Cougars have showed signs of improvement compared to last season, however, the team never really found their stride through the course of the regular season. The Cougars were able to achieve two back-to-back conference-winning streaks: one early in the season against UW and OSU, and the other late in the season against ASU and UW.

One of the most noted achievements for the Cougs this season was a sweep of the Washington Huskies, which had not been done since the 2011-2012 season.

WSU’s first encounter with UW was back on New Year’s Day for the conference play opener for the two teams. The Cougars beat the Huskies 79-74 at the Alaska Airlines Arena in front of 9200 plus spectators.

This ended the Cougars eight-game losing streak for conference openers.

UW’s freshman guard Markelle Fultz led his team with 26 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds. Fultz was one rebound away from a triple-double.

UW’s senior forward Malik Dime and sophomore guards David Crisp and Matisse Thybulle had a combined score of 18 points.

While the Cougars trailed UW 71-67 in the final minutes of the game, senior forward Josh Hawkinson and freshman guard Malachi Flynn contributed to the Cougs 12-3 run, which was enough to secure a win for WSU.

Eight of Flynn’s 16 points were scored in the last 2:13 minutes of play.

The second time the Cougars and Huskies clashed was on senior night on Feb. 26 in Beasley Coliseum, which ended in a 79-74 WSU victory.

Before the game, seniors Josh Hawkinson, Ike Iroegbu, Charles Callison and Conor Clifford were honored by WSU staff.

It was a close match throughout the game, but the Cougars pulled away towards the end. In total, there were eight lead changes.

Aside from the season highs of beating its rivals, the Cougs have struggled since, dropping two games in California to the University of Southern California and the No. 3 University of California, Los Angeles.

The Cougs will have to learn from its mistakes in California if they want to beat UC in the Pac-12 Tournament. UC recently closed out their regular season with a two-game winning streak on their home court in Boulder, Colorado, beating Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley.

The Cougs will head into the tournament tomorrow having split games this season with the Buffaloes. The Cougars were able to pull off an overtime win against Colorado in Pullman by a score of 91-89 on Jan 21. Colorado had no problem getting past the Cougs the last time they met, blowing WSU out by score of 81-49 on Feb. 12 in Boulder. In the game, the Cougs turned the ball over 24 times, which lead to some easy baskets for the Buffaloes.

WSU will need solid production from Hawkinson and senior guard Ike Iroegbu if they want to beat Colorado. Hawkinson, who averages a double-double with 15.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game has been reliable all season long for WSU.

Iroegbu has been consistent for the team as well, averaging 12.5 points and leads the team with 3.6 assists per game.

Freshman guard Malachi Flynn, who has been a contributor right out of the gate in his first season with the team, will be a key player in the game. Flynn, who is averaging just over 10 points per contest, has proven to be a threat from beyond the arc and looks aid the WSU offensive attack.

If the Cougs beat Colorado tomorrow, the Cougs will move onto the quarterfinals and play No. 2 seed Arizona 6 p.m. on Thursday. All first round games will be televised live on Pac-12 Networks.

Reporting by Gabriel Bravo