Cougars return to challenge No. 8 Oregon

Cougars look to avoid a third straight conference loss on Thursday



WSU then-junior guard Jervae Robinson dribbles past Oregon then-junior guard Payton Pritchard on March 6 at Beasley Coliseum.

RYAN ROOT, Evergreen reporter

The men’s basketball team returns to the Palouse to take on No. 8 University of Oregon at 6 p.m. Thursday at Beasley Coliseum.

WSU (10-7, 1-3) comes off two straight Pac-12 losses for the first time this season to the California Golden Bears and the Stanford Cardinal. Stanford’s victory posted the largest margin of defeat for the Cougars this season.

Sophomore forward CJ Elleby said the game got out of control early on, and the team is not spending much time focusing on the loss.

“We’re learning what we can from it and moving forward,” Elleby said. “We’re building on what we can and correcting where we need to.”

Elleby led the team in points against Cal and junior guard Isaac Bonton led the Cougars in points against and Stanford. Elleby remains the team’s leading scorer this season with 18.4 points per game.

The Oregon Ducks (14-3, 3-1) have won the past four matchups against WSU with their most recent victory coming from the first round of last year’s Pac-12 Championship. The Cougar’s last victory dates to March 2018 in Pullman, which was just the third win from the past decade.

The largest statistical difference between these two teams this season are in the shooting percentages. WSU ranks 331st in field goal percentage with 39.7 and 317th in 3-point percentage with 29.6. Oregon ranks 12th in field goal percentage with 48.4 and 10th in three-point percentage with 39.4.

The team looks to focus on playing more solid and taking less ‘gambles’ on defense on Thursday, Elleby said.

“We’re not emphasizing playing the passing lanes. We are emphasizing being solid and staying in front,” Elleby said.

Head coach Kyle Smith acknowledged Oregon’s shooting talent in his weekly press conference. He said he believes that will be the difference maker in Thursday’s game.

“Obviously they can score the ball, so it will be a test for us to make them earn their buckets, and we cannot give up easy [points],” Smith said.

Oregon’s senior guard Payton Pritchard leads the Ducks in scoring with 19.2 points per game, ranking third in the Pac-12 and 43rd in the nation.

This will be an interesting matchup for Bonton as he and Pritchard played AAU basketball in the Portland area, making it a good challenge for both Elleby and Bonton to play against one of the best players in the country, Smith said.

WSU’s last home victory this season was an overtime thriller against UCLA on Jan. 4.

Freshman guard Noah Williams said he hopes the fans will continue to show out and show love for the team as the crowd atmosphere has been ideal.

“I hope the fans come and show some more support,” Williams said. “We’re trying to change the culture over here and bring some more wins.”

WSU will tip off against the Oregon Ducks at 6 p.m. Thursday at Beasley Coliseum. The game will air on local FS1 channels.