Washington State Cougars (11-7, 2-3)
- Head Coach: Kyle Smith (1st Season)
- Top Performer: CJ Elleby (18.8 PPG, 7.1 RPG)
- Points For: 71.5 PPG (197th)
- Points Against: 66.4 PPG (113th)
- Last Game/Streak: 72-61 Win vs. Oregon (1W)
If anyone told you before the game that they saw Washington State knocking off #8 Oregon on Thursday night, then they are what we like to call in the business a bold-face liar, who simply is jumping on the bandwagon now that the outcome has been decided. But to the Cougars credit, beating a team like the Ducks, regardless of who may have believed in them, is the type of victory that can change things in a seriously positive way for the near future.
It can also be the perfect source of a big-game hangover, as they prepare to host a Beavers squad on Saturday who desperately needs to right the ship.
In my eyes, the main deciding factor in Saturday’s matinee in Pullman, will be the overall sense of urgency that both teams choose to perform with. Will the Cougars be ready for the challenge? Will Oregon State be able to overcome a letdown defeat? And what team will want to emerge out of the three-league-loss logjam in the middle of the conference to show that maybe, their records just don’t tell their full stories.
If Washington State does want to knock off Oregon State, sweeping the Beaver State rivals and in turn, throwing the conference for another ridiculous loop, the Cougars will have to rely strongly on their two stars players in forward CJ Elleby (18.8 PPG) and Isaac Bonton (13.4 PPG) to once again carry the load.
Elleby, who shockingly is still just a sophomore, may just be one of the top-ten most talented players in the conference and when he asserts himself (like he did against Oregon), he’s arguably the most difficult individual player to slow down. The 6’ 6” swingman torched the Ducks to the tune of 25 points and 14 rebounds, in an effort that showed his abilities as a leader as well.
Meanwhile, Bonton wasn’t far behind. Featured below in our Player To Watch, the 6’ 3” guard and Portland native has been a superb surprise for Washington State, who has clicked seamlessly with new head coach Kyle Smith to be a reliable option in the back-court for the Cougars. Not only can Bonton check in and out of scoring rhythms, but he also may be the best true distributor on a roster that gets muddy and sometimes lackluster beyond the top tier of pieces.
Senior big man Jeff Pollard (9.6 PPG) is another enjoyable player to watch, as a regular double-double threat, yet overall, there’s not a great amount to even discuss after him. Washington State has eight players on their depth chart who average between 2.3 and 6.6 points per game and have seen action in at least five contests.
In all, like I already mentioned, there may not be a game in the conference more difficult to gauge from the outside looking in. If the Beavers can tap into their sense of urgency, Oregon State knows they are the better team. But momentum is a tricky game, that can sink or float a group and right now, the Cougars haven’t been consistent enough to show what a crucial win can do for them.
Just as the game starts 0-0 at the start of forty minutes, this contest should be considered an absolute toss-up when the ball is tipped-off on Saturday afternoon.
Player To Watch
Isaac Bonton (Guard - Junior)
Besides Washington State’s victory over Idaho where junior forward Tony Miller led the team in scoring, every game has featured either Elleby or Bonton as the team’s top scorer, including four of the Cougars last six outings. Bonton is a really great fitting piece for this rebuilding group, who as a plug-in junior college transfer from Casper College, has both the talent and veteran experience to anchor a roster still in flux.
- Date: Saturday, January 18th
- Time: 1:00 PM PT
- Location: Beasley Coliseum (Pullman, WA)
- Coverage: Pac-12 Network