CU men's basketball preview: Washington State

MATCHUP: Colorado Buffaloes (14-5, 3-3 Pac-12 Conference) at Washington State Cougars (9-9, 1-5).

GAME TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. MST, Beasley Coliseum.

BROADCAST: Radio — 850 AM; TV — Pac-12 Networks.

COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, sixth season (122-73, 178-139 overall); Washington State — Ernie Kent, second season (22-27, 347-281 overall).

LEADERS: Colorado — Scoring: F Josh Scott, Sr., 17.8 ppg; Rebounding: Scott, 9.9 rpg; Assists: G Dom Collier, So., 3.3 apg. Washington State — Scoring: F Josh Hawkinson, Jr., 16.7 ppg; Rebounding: Hawkinson, 11.0 rpg; Assists: G Ike Iroegbu, Jr., 4.0 apg.

NOTABLE: The Cougars have lost four consecutive games but have a win at home against then-No. 25 UCLA ... WSU is coming off a 92-71 home loss Thursday against Utah and has surrendered an average of 91.3 points during its four-game slide ... Scott enjoyed a monster game at WSU last year, finishing with 32 points and 12 rebounds in an overtime loss. That result ruined CU's 5-0 mark against the Cougars since joining the Pac-12 ... Scott has averaged 16.8 points and 11.8 rebounds during his current streak of five consecutive double-doubles ... Collier knocked down 8-of-10 3-pointers in the past two games ... One game after going a combined 6-for-12 with 19 points against Oregon, reserve guards Thomas Akyazili and Xavier Talton went 0-for-11 against Washington.


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SEATTLE — Even though Josh Scott still was agonizing over a lost opportunity at Washington, the sweat had yet to dry on the face of the Colorado Buffaloes' standout when he started looking ahead to when his club could start to make amends for Wednesday's loss.

"Lucky for us, we play Washington State on Saturday," Scott said. "It will be a big game for us."

Indeed, the Buffs complete their two-game road trip with a date against the Cougars, with CU eyeing a chance to salvage a split on their latest sojourn to the Pacific Northwest.

Certainly, the Buffs were stung by their effort Wednesday at Washington, when a late CU surge was not enough to overcome a 22-point hole and a stellar shooting night by the Huskies. Yet in a highly competitive Pac-12 Conference, which enters the weekend with eight teams with records of 4-2 or 3-3, collecting road splits will continue to keep the Buffs ahead of the curve.

It is a feat CU managed to achieve on its first league road trip three weeks ago, shaking off a loss against Cal that was marked by a similarly discouraging first half to edge Stanford two days later.

"We win that (Washington) game, we're in contention for first place," CU coach Tad Boyle said. "Now we're back in the muck in the middle of the league."

Added George King, who has connected on 10-of-18 shots over the past two games: "0-2 anywhere is not good. With us being 3-3, you don't want to fall below .500. We have a goal, and we know what that is. And going 0-2 in Washington definitely wouldn't help."

After struggling against a Washington team whose strength is found in its guard play along the perimeter, CU will take on a Washington State team powered by one of the Pac-12's top interior players in junior Josh Hawkinson.

Hawkinson leads the league in rebounding at an even 11 per game and also ranks fourth in scoring at 16.7 points per game, setting up an intriguing matchup with Scott, who ranks second in scoring (17.8) and fourth in rebounding (9.9) while bringing a streak of five consecutive double-doubles into Saturday's contest.

Hawkinson proved formidable against the Buffs last year, averaging 16.5 points and 8.5 rebounds as the teams split their two games. Hawkinson also ranks sixth in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage (.573) and is tied for third in free throw percentage (.827). Scott ranks fourth and 13th, respectively, in those categories, though he has attempted 45 more free throws than Hawkinson.

"I know they've got good players and they're a good home team," Boyle said. "They snuck one out in overtime last year (at WSU). Josh Hawkinson is a heck of a player. Ike Iroegbu is a heck of a player. They've got some talent. Que Johnson is a good, talented guy. They're a solid team."

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07