PULLMAN – Not many non-conference 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 WSU’s 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 in their yearly Cougar Hardwood Classic in KeyArena. The game with Portland State was a last-minute thing.
“We hardly had 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.
•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).
The Vikings’ leading scorer is Dominic Walters, a 6-foot-1 senior guard. He is shooting 54 percent from the floor and has converted half of his 40 3-point tries, and shoots 93 percent from the free-throw line. He averages 17.9 points a game.
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.”
•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 their second consecutive West Coast Conference opponent.
USF is 4-8, having lost five of its last six games.
Freshman guard Kiki Moore (13.6) leads the Cougars.
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