Washington State Cougars (9-13)
- Latest BTD Pac-12 Power Rankings: 11th Overall (9-10)
- Head Coach: Ernie Kent (4th Season)
- Top Performer: Robert Franks (18.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG)
- Points For: 74.5 PPG (163rd)
- Points Against: 77.0 PPG (286th)
- Last Game/Streak: 88-77 Loss v. Arizona State (5L)
Having lost nine of their last ten games in conference play, Washington State heads into Thursday night’s clash against Oregon State in search of a much-needed victory.
For the Cougars, it’s simply all part of the rebuilding process under head coach Ernie Kent, who’s team has completely fallen apart since their 6-0 start to the season. For Kent and company, even with a unit that has found new pieces to rely upon in the back-court combo of Carter Skaggs (9.2 PPG) and Viont’e Daniels (8.8 PPG), Washington State still sports a depth chart with too many holes and inconsistencies. It’s a problem that can’t be fixed on the fly in Pullman, after a massive loss of talent from the program in the off-season.
The only good news for the Cougars is that point guard Malachi Flynn (14.8 PPG) did return to Pullman this season and through the team’s first 22 games, the sophomore has lived up to his program-carrying billing. What was un-forseen for Washington State was the speedy development of forward Robert Franks (18.0 PPG), who after averaging just 6.3 points per game a season ago, has emerged as arguably the league’s most improved overall talent.
So no, the Cougars aren’t exactly a complete dumpster fire at the moment. There’s just a lot that needs fixing for the boys from Pullman and not a lot of time to address these issues.
On Thursday night, Washington State needs to somehow improve it’s lackluster defensive effort, which has allowed an average of 77 points per contest to opponents and over the course of the last five games, aided opponents in a ridiculous 86.4 points per game of offense. Even in a flow-and-go league like the Pac-12, that number is hard to wrap your head around. No team should be allowing opposing squads to score with such ease.
And they’ll also have to find a way to not give life to this Beavers group, which has been a key to victory in a handful of Oregon State’s games this season. When opponents allow Wayne Tinkle’s squad to make it a ball-game, the Beavers have actually improved in their ability to find key players down the stretch and make the right plays.
The bad news for Oregon State, is that like Washington State, victories have been a bit of a stranger to the program as of late.
The Beavers have dropped four straight in their own regard and six of their last seven overall, which doesn’t put Tinkle’s boys in a positive spot come Thursday night. In order to right the ship and find their way back over the .500 mark on the season, the Beavers need to bury some of their recent absymal efforts and focus on the task at hand against the Cougars.
Keep this game in mind as a potential turning point for the rest of the Oregon State season.
Players To Watch
Robert Franks (JR - Forward): As mentioned before, Franks is one of the league’s biggest breakthrough talents, who has used the open spots on the Cougars’ roster to fuel his rapid improvement. He’ll be a force to be reckoned with against the Beavers, both for his ability to score inside and on the perimeter and for his always imposing presence on the glass.
Malachi Flynn (SO - Guard): Arguably my favorite point guard in the league (for whatever that’s worth), Flynn is basically a ball-handler with combo guard abilities who someday down the line will find himself on NBA Draft boards. A dynamic play-maker, if Flynn was running the show for one of the league’s top-tier teams, he’d be a house-hould name with his quality of play.
Viont’e Daniels (JR - Guard): Another strong developer under Ernie Kent, Daniels has really come into his own during his junior season, as his shooting ability (especially from behind the arc) has now become a staple of his game. One of the Pac-12’s best sharpshooters at 46.2% on the season, the Beavers will need to key in on Daniels when he’s hovering around the three-point line.
- Date: Thursday, February 8th
- Time: 7:30 PM PT
- Location: Gill Coliseum (Corvallis, OR)
- Coverage: Pac-12 Network