Men’s basketball team seeks revenge in Tucson

First game of final road trip is rematch against 66-49 loss to Wildcats



Last time out, Arizona visited WSU in Pullman and overran the Cougars into a 66-49 defeat. This performance was WSU’s fewest points and rebounds in a game this season.

RYAN ROOT, Evergreen reporter

WSU men’s basketball will visit the Arizona schools this week for its last two away games to finish its regular season schedule.

WSU (15-14, 6-10) will make its first stop on its road trip against the University of Arizona Wildcats (19-10, 9-7) at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday in Tucson, Arizona.

WSU comes off its first road win of conference play against the University of Washington this past Friday. Head coach Kyle Smith said the team has played well in most of their road games this season, however they plan on translating the team’s success against UW to the Arizona schools this week.

“Hopefully just capitalize off [Friday’s win], I think we will,” Smith said. “I think our guys are up for it.”

With his recent performance against UW, junior guard Isaac Bonton remains the only player for WSU that has scored in double-digits in every conference game he’s played in this season. Smith said Bonton’s efforts has further emphasized Smith’s past coaching antics of having a scoring point guard.

“That’s really your quarterback, he’s not a game manager,” Smith said. “He’s not Trent Dilfer, it’s more Michael Vick.”

Last time out, Arizona visited WSU in Pullman and overran the Cougars into a 66-49 defeat. This performance was WSU’s fewest points and rebounds in a game this season.

Junior forward Tony Miller did not play against Arizona in the previous matchup as he was on the back end of an ankle injury he endured during WSU’s matchup against UCLA in January.

Smith said Miller’s participation will help give the WSU bench a considerable impact in Thursday’s outcome.

“He’s a remarkable finisher around the basket, especially considering he’s a little undersized,” Smith said. “We need him. If he were healthy the whole time, I think he’d be our third leading scorer.”

Arizona freshman forward Zeke Nnaji and graduate forward Stone Gettings posted double-doubles when the Wildcats faced the Cougars last; Getttings achieved his double-double before halftime.

The 22 total rebounds from these two players alone contributed for almost half of Arizona’s 49 total rebounds at the end of the game; the most rebounds WSU has allowed to any opponent this season.

“They really killed us last time on the glass,” freshman guard Noah Williams said. “Boxing out and fighting for the rebounds and making sure everyone crashes, we should be good.”

Miller said this time around that WSU will bring an altered approach to rebounding the ball, defending against the Arizona bigs and transitioning the ball on offense.

“I think we’ve planned well for them,” Miller said. “I think our changes are a little bit better this game.”

Nnaji ranks second in the Pac-12 in offensive rebounds per game with 2.9 and fifth in field goal percentage with 57.8 percent.

Arizona freshman guard Nico Mannion comes into Thursday’s rematch in second place among the Pac-12 in assists per game with 5.3. Williams said Mannion’s playmaking will be a focal point for the Cougar defense to contest.

“He’s the head of the snake,” Williams said. “Really, if you stop him and stop him from getting his assists, then we should be very successful.”

Bonton was the Cougars’ leading scorer when facing the Wildcats last time with 15 points. The Cougars’ leading scorer for the season, sophomore forward CJ Elleby, shot two of 12 for seven points, his second-worst scoring performance this season.

During that game, Elleby was battling the flu and played 30 minutes for the Cougars. Smith said Elleby has shown no signs of any sickness coming up to Thursday’s matchup.

“We’re leaving the coronavirus behind hopefully,” Smith said. “I think he’ll be healthy; he’ll be excited.”

This game against Arizona is one of two remaining road games for WSU before the Pac-12 tournament on March 11. Miller said winning these remaining conference games will be key to transitioning to the competition that the tournament will bring.

“It’ll give us a lot of confidence and momentum,” Miller said. “I think we’ll always have confidence though.”

WSU tips off its rematch against Arizona at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the McKale Memorial Center in Tucson, Arizona. The game will air on the FS1 Network.