Thursday , January 18, 2018 - 5:15 AM
After splitting last week’s action on the road, the Wildcats (10-7, 3-2 Big Sky) now find themselves in fourth place and among five teams with two losses in the Big Sky. It’s shaping up to be a tight race for the top of the conference.
“We went on the road and we competed. We played hard, we played tough and I was really happy with that part of it,” WSU head coach Randy Rahe said. “If that’s who we become, and that’s who we are every night out, then we’re going to get better that much quicker. I think that’s who we’re becoming. Now we’ve just got to keep improving.”
Only a game behind WSU, Sacramento State (5-13, 2-3 BSC) will be looking for its first road win of the season. The team rolled by Montana State last week and beat the Portland State (12-6, 2-3 BSC) in the conference opener.
Sac State’s offense starts with the length and athleticism of senior forward Justin Strings. The California native leads the team in scoring with 18.4 points per game and takes more than a third of the team’s shots when on the floor.
“He’s playing as well as anybody in our conference right now. He’s a terrific player,” Rahe said. “He’s scoring the ball at every level you can think of. He gets a lot of attention. The other guards feed off of that. You give him a lot of attention and they’re good enough players where they’re going to hurt you.”
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Trying to shut down Strings with a double-team presents other problems, as the team also has veteran talent like junior guard Jordan Tolbert, who adds 10.6 points per game. Sophomore forward Joshua Patton can also score in double figures and is coming off an 18-point performance against Montana State.
Among Big Sky teams, the Hornets have the second-worst scoring offense and grab the second-least amount of rebounds per game.
“They’re going to come out and they’re going to compete as hard as anybody in our league. If you’re not ready to compete with them, you’ll get embarrassed,” Rahe said. “We’re going to have to play extremely well because they’re coming off their best game of the year. They’re playing their best basketball of the season right now.”
Portland State may be behind the Wildcats in the standings, but the team has the talent to be at the top once all is said and done. Head coach Barret Peery hasn’t shied away from tough competition this season, as PSU has battled well against the likes of Duke and Butler, and came away with a win over Stanford.
“They’re going to try to turn you over and limit their turnovers, that’s how they end up beating you,” Rahe said. “Not only that, they’ve got six seniors and probably overall, they’ve got the most talent in the league along with being old. They’ve got everything ... they’re playing fast, they’re playing aggressive, and they’re absolutely a handful.”
Tipoff against Sacramento State is 7 p.m. Thursday, with tip at the same time Saturday against Portland State. Both games will be streamed live on PlutoTV and WatchBigSky.com, and broadcast on 1430 AM KLO with Steve Klauke and David Patten on the call.
Contact sports reporter Brandon Garside at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @BrandonGarside and on Facebook.com/BrandonGarsideSE.
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