Men’s basketball to compete in the US Virgin Islands

GARRETT GLUCK | Evergreen reporter

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The WSU men’s basketball team heads to the U.S. Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam Tournament where Cougs will take on the No. 22 ranked Creighton Bluejays.

The Cougars (2-0, 0-0) are coming into this game after a narrow victory of 81-76 against Central Washington University on Tuesday where they had to make a second-half surge led by 14 second-half points by senior guard Ike Iroegbu to get the win.

While Creighton (2-0, 0-0) is coming off an impressive win against No. 9 ranked Wisconsin, Creighton was led by a double-double from senior point guard Maurice Watson Jr. Sophomore guard Khyri Thomas also contributed, adding 18 points for the Bluejays.

The Cougs are in the midst of a nine-day road trip and Head Coach Ernie Kent believes this will be good for his team.

“It’s great for them to go on a trip right now,” Kent said in a news conference on Monday. “It’s going to create adversity, and I think anytime you go through adversity it starts to define the identity of your team, plus you get a good amount of time to bond.”

WSU will be looking for production from senior forward Josh Hawkinson who double-doubled in both games this year, and redshirt senior center Conor Clifford who has been an efficient scorer through both games, shooting 75 percent from the field.

“Conor is almost automatic right now,” Kent said. “He has that natural touch and feel that you cannot teach.”

WSU will have a tough task on their hands trying to slow down the Bluejays’ offense. Creighton has shot a solid 50 percent from the field and 44 percent from behind the three-point line.

Scoring against the Bluejays may be difficult for the Cougs as Creighton has held opponents to a measly 42 percent from the field and 34 percent from distance.

The Cougars will try to use their size to its advantage in this game. Creighton has been outrebounded in both of their games, averaging 32 rebounds as a team per game, while WSU has 41.5 rebounds per game over their first two outings.

The play of freshman guard Malachi Flynn could also help WSU who will come into today’s matchup averaging 14 points and 7.5 boards.

The Paradise Jam Tournament has a great field of participants, consisting of North Carolina State University, University of Mississippi, University of Montana, Saint Joseph’s University, Loyola University Chicago and Oral Roberts University.

The Cougars will face-off with Creighton at 5:30 p.m. today. Live updates of the game can be found on the WSU Cougars website. The cougars will play two more games, depending on the results of the tournament.