Men’s Basketball returns to Beasley on Sunday

Cougars play UC Riverside Highlanders for the first time in eight years



Sophomore forward CJ Elleby goes up for two against Idaho State University on Nov. 17 at Beasley Coliseum. The Cougars won 72-61, and Elleby lead the team with 23 points.

RYAN ROOT, Evergreen reporter

The WSU men’s basketball team faces the UC Riverside Highlanders at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday at Beasley Coliseum.

WSU (5-4, 0-0) comes off a victory against New Mexico State University on Saturday, which marks the first back-to-back victory for the team this season. The Cougar’s defensive effort and free throw shooting propelled them to lead for 33 minutes of the game.

Three of four WSU losses this year have shown the Cougars leading at halftime. Senior guard Jaylen Shead said the last win was a confidence booster for the team to translate first half success into the next half.

“We’re always talking about toughness, ‘Can we keep a lead and finish the game?’” Shead said. “Against New Mexico State we were able to do that.”

WSU is still the leading school in the nation for fewest turnovers per game. However, the team believes they can be even better at keeping possession of the ball.

“If you’re not shooting good, but you get more shots, then you can always get more makes,” Shead said.

This is the third time in history WSU and UC Riverside (7-3, 0-0) will face each other. The last contest took place in Anaheim, California back in 201. The last time the game was in Pullman was back in 2005. The Cougars are 1-1 historically against UC Riverside, their one win was from their 2005 matchup.

UC Riverside is in first place in the Big West Conference. They won five of their last six games. The Highlanders started their season with a 19-point victory over Nebraska, who the Cougars lost to 66-47 in the first round of this year’s Cayman Island Classic.

Head coach Kyle Smith believes this victory for Riverside proves that there will be a considerable challenge this coming Sunday.

“They’re pretty well coached,” Smith said. “It’ll be a good competition.”

UC Riverside’s leading scorer is center Callum McRae with 11.4 points per game, as well as 8.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. WSU sophomore forward Aljaz Kunc said that the team is more focused on their own performance and game plan, rather than their opponent’s.

“If can come back to Beasley and be us,” Kunc said, “then we can worry about what the other team brings to the table.”

WSU will tip off against UC Riverside at 1:30 p.m. this Sunday at Beasley Coliseum and the game can be viewed on the Pac-12 Network.