We're back in the swing of things now, and we've put together our advance for tomorrow's game in the Tri-Cities. You can check out the unedited version on the link.
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PULLMAN – Not many nonconference college basketball games carry the subtext as today's Washington State University contest with Portland State.
There's the site, the Toyota Center in Kennewick, the second of three consecutive off-campus home games for the 8-2 Cougars.
There's the opponent, the Portland State Vikings, 5-5 in their first year under head coach Tyler Geving. You may recall the former PSU coach, Ken Bone, who led the Vikings to the NCAA Tournament that past two years. He's now the WSU coach.
And there's the doubleheader nature of the event, with the WSU women facing the University of San Francisco at 1:30 p.m., three hours before the men tip off.
Let's take those aspects in order.
• The Cougars played Air Force in Spokane last week to fulfill an NCAA obligation. They face LSU in Seattle on Tuesday, their yearly Cougar Hardwood Classic in Key Arena. The game with Portland State? That was a last-minute thing.
"We hardly any money left in regards to a guarantee," said Bone about the WSU schedule. "It was either go on the road and play or do something creative. Portland State agreed to play us in the Tri-Cities for a minimal amount in regards to a guarantee."
But it also carries some benefits.
"It would be great to play all our home games in Pullman, but with the students gone (on winter break) and knowing we would not probably have a real good draw, it's nice to be able to go somewhere where I do think we will have a decent draw," Bone said.
"I think there is a number of alumni in that area that will come out and support our program. And it just gives our program a chance to be exposed to a different part of the state. We get to Spokane periodically, we also get to Seattle. Getting into the Tri-Cities area will be really good for us."
• Portland State won't surprise the Cougars, but the Vikings will test them.
"We definitely know what to expect," Bone said of his old team. "They are a team that can really put up some points on the offensive end. They've got a lot of offensive weapons. We're in for a real challenge."
PSU attacks from long-range, the same way the Vikings did under Bone. They are sixth in the nation, converting 44 percent of their 3-point attempts and eighth in the country in overall shooting percentage (51.1) and 3-pointers made per game (9.8).
Guard Melvin Jones leads the way there, averaging 3.4 made 3-pointers a game, helping him to 13 points. But he's not alone. Forward Phil Nelson, who started at Washington before transferring down Interstate 5 a couple years ago, scored 28 points in a 93-81 win over Pepperdine a week ago, hitting 8 of 12 3-pointers in the process. He averages 12.5 points a game, just ahead of Jamie Nelson's 12.2.
But the Vikings' leading scorer is Dominic Walters, a 6-1 senior guard who is shooting 54 percent from the floor, has converted half his 40 3-point tries and shoots 93 percent from the free-throw line. He averages 17.9 points a game.
"We hope to be on them when they catch the ball and not give them a good look at the basket," Bone said. "When they do shoot it, do a good job of contesting shots.
"It's a team that plays with a lot of energy, they get up and down the floor extremely well in transition, they shoot a tremendous amount of 3-point shots, and, unfortunately, they're hitting them again this year at a high rate."
And many of them are guys he left behind, though Bone said he doesn't have mixed emotions.
"I enjoyed my time there," he said. "They are a great group of kids and I hope they win every game they play this year, except this one. I'm the Washington State Cougar coach and I'm hoping we'll be able to go out and perform well and come out ahead of them."
WSU point guard Reggie Moore sees it a little differently.
"I just want to go out and get the win for him," Moore said after his 10-assist, 16-point game against Air Force. "It's probably going to be a huge game for him, kind of weird going against his (old) team, coaching staff, stuff like that."
• The doubleheader will be the only one this season. The WSU women, 4-5 and coming off a 79-53 home defeat to the University of Portland, will be facing its second consecutive West Coast Conference opponent.
USF is 4-8, having lost five of its last six games. The Dons are led 5-8 guard Rheina Ale, who is averaging 13.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.
Freshman guard Kiki Moore (13.6) leads three Cougars averaging in double figures, along with sophomore guards April Cook (13.1) and Jazmine Perkins (12.7 points and a team-high 6.9 rebounds). WSU starts three sophomores and two freshmen.
• That's it for today. We'll be back with our usual morning post tomorrow. Until then ...