PULLMAN – A good offense, great defense, hostile crowd and an opponent coming home after its first Pac-12 loss will likely make Washington State’s game tonight at Utah its toughest of the season.
Because the Cougars do not visit No. 7 Arizona in 2014-15, No. 12 Utah will almost certainly be WSU’s most highly ranked league road opponent. The Huntsman Center, which averages more than 11,000 fans per game, has proved to be one of the Pac-12’s most imposing venues.
The Utes (14-3, 4-1 Pac-12) return to Salt Lake City after suffering their worst loss of the season, a 69-51 defeat at Arizona.
But WSU (9-8, 3-2) has played some of its best basketball on the road, knocking off California and Washington in consecutive games. First-year WSU coach Ernie Kent credits the insular nature of road swings and his team’s ability to focus only on the game for WSU’s recent road success.
“When we’re out there on the road together it gives us a chance to really get a culture and really get a sense of we’re in this together,” Kent said. “Because now you’ve eliminated a lot of distractions that you would have on your college campus of being a college student and everything.”
The key for WSU will be stopping Utes guard Delon Wright, who is one of the best two-way players in the Pac-12. Wright does everything for the Utes. He leads Utah in scoring with 15 points per game, is No. 3 in the conference with 5.76 assists per game and No. 2 in steals with 2.29 per game.
“He has that ability to anticipate at both ends of the floor, so he can change the game or dominate the game on the defensive end – steals, blocks – as well as can on the offensive end – drives, scoring, dishing the ball,” Kent said. “So it becomes a matchup nightmare, because he’s so good at both ends of the floor he can disrupt you and you’ve got to be able to weather that throughout the course of the game.”
WSU will travel to Boulder, Colorado, for Saturday’s game against the Buffaloes.
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