WSU men’s basketball team hosts Arizona

Riding a seven-game losing streak, the road in conference play does not get any easier for the WSU men’s basketball team.

The Cougars (9-12, 1-8 Pac-12) return home on Wednesday to host the Arizona Wildcats (17-5, 5-4 Pac-12). The Wildcats were projected as the favorites to claim the Pac-12 Conference regular season title this season. However, Arizona is currently at No.6 in the conference standings and trails No.1 Oregon by two games.

“They’re a very physical basketball team, they play with an enormous amount of confidence,” WSU Head Coach Ernie Kent said. “What we’re going to need is a mentality, a mentality to understand how hard we need to play on a possession by possession basis for 40 minutes.”

This will be the second time the two teams meet this season. In the first outing the Wildcats blew out the Cougars on their home floor in Tucson, Ariz., by a score of 90-66. WSU had a difficult time containing Arizona’s front court led by senior forward Ryan Anderson, and senior center Kaleb Tarczewski. Anderson scored a team-high of 15 points, and Tarczewski notched 11 points.

“Last time we doubled them, they exposed us from the outside,” WSU junior forward Josh Hawkinson said. “We have to continue to play solid interior defense and hopefully this time the guards won’t beat us as bad.”

WSU’s interior defense could be an even bigger threat against Arizona this time around if WSU redshirt junior forward Valentine Izundu is able to play. Izundu has sat out the last seven games, including WSU’s last game against Arizona. However, Izundu has returned to the court and participated in practice. The 6-10, 215 pound center leads the Cougars in shot blocks this season with 38. The chances of Izundu playing Wednesday night are still unknown, according to Kent.

“We’ll see how he responds in practice this week, but it’s just nice to have him back out there, have him get up and down the floor,” Kent added. “He has the green light to play, but I’m going to wait and make that decision at game time.”

WSU also had trouble stopping Arizona senior guard Gabe York who scored 11 points on 4 of 12 shooting from the field. York’s biggest strength is his perimeter shooting. The California native has hit 30 3-pointers in just conference play which is No.1 in the Pac-12. He’s also shooting 44 percent from behind the arch.

How will the Cougars contain York this around?

“Subtract his touches of the ball,” WSU junior guard Charles Callison said. “Keep him off the 3-point line, (and) make him attack and create.”

Callison added that Arizona rarely makes mistakes and turns the ball over, but when the Wildcats do make any errors the Cougars must capitalize if they have any shot of pulling off the upset.

Tip-off between WSU and No.23 Arizona is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Beasley Coliseum. After facing the Wildcats, the Cougars will host Arizona State (12-10, 2-7 Pac-12) at 3:30 p.m. Pac-12 Networks will televise both games.