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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Washington State looks to be more competitive in rematch against Utes

Utah forward Tyler Rawson, left, and Washington State guard Malachi Flynn go after the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Pullman, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. Utah won 88-47. (Young Kwak / Associated Press)

PULLMAN – The last time Washington State faced Utah, the Cougars suffered one of the worst defeats ever on their home court – an 88-47 beat-down in Beasley Coliseum.

The Cougars (11-12, 4-7 Pac-12) have become a more competitive bunch since that loss. They will try to prove it on Thursday at 6 p.m. during the rematch against Utah in front of what is sure to be a large, hostile crowd in Salt Lake City.

“We need to give them a better game, and I’m hoping we’re able to do that,” said WSU coach Ernie Kent.

Since that game the Cougars are 2-3, with two of those losses coming to Top-10 teams in Arizona and UCLA. Furthermore, WSU was competitive until the final minutes of each game. Kent has found ways to get the bench players more involved, and the result is that the starters are playing better.

“I trust my bench more,” Kent said. “It’s deeper, but I’ve got to play it more and they’re going to produce.”

The Utes, conversely, have had a rough couple weeks. Once considered a surefire NCAA tournament team, Utah (15-8, 6-5) will need to finish strong to make March Madness after losing three of its last four games.