Washington State has two games left to tune up for its Pac-10 schedule.
The seventh-ranked Cougars (10-0), off to their best start in 16 years, look to continue that process when they visit lowly Idaho State (2-7) on Sunday.
Washington State is closing in on the 1991-92 Cougars team that opened 12-0, due largely to the fact that it’s holding opponents to 51.7 points per game - fewest in the nation. The Cougars have limited five teams to less than 50 points and are outscoring opponents by nearly 18 points per game.
Washington State overwhelmed The Citadel defensively in Thursday’s 67-45 win in Seattle. The Cougars held the Bulldogs scoreless for the first 6:15 of the game, the final 6:58 of the first half and for 7 minutes in the second.
“Every guy is sound and every guy takes pride in containing that ball out front,” Citadel coach Ed Conroy said. “You just know how they’re going to play. … They can really get to you. It’s a mental game when you play Washington State.”
Aron Baynes scored 16 points and Daven Harmeling added 11 off the bench for Washington State, which played in front of 12,000 fans - about 7,000 more than watched the Cougars the first time they played a non-conference game in Seattle two years earlier.
“To see the support means a lot,” coach Tony Bennett said. “I told the guys in the locker room ‘You’ve established something.’ … It’s a great memory, probably one of the best memories I have.”
Baynes and Derrick Low, who had six points, are both averaging a team-best 11.8 points, while Kyle Weaver is chipping in 11.2 per game.
Washington State’s final non-conference game is a home matchup with North Carolina A&T on Friday. The Cougars open their Pac-10 schedule at Washington on Jan. 5.
“When you start Pac-10 play, it’s just another animal,” coach Tony Bennett said. “The goal from today’s game is trying to find our stride, trying to get our rotation as solid as we can, (and) be good offensively and defensively.”
A game against Idaho State should give the Cougars a chance to pad their already impressive defensive numbers. The Bengals rank last in the Big Sky Conference with 58.1 points per game.
Idaho State is playing its second straight contest against a Pac-10 team after falling 89-49 to No. 8 UCLA on Dec. 15. The Bengals have dropped 10 in a row to Pac-10 foes since beating Oregon 62-57 on Dec. 3, 1986.
“Unfortunately, we do not have enough people to contribute in this environment,” coach Joe O’Brien said after the loss to the Bruins. “Why did we come out here? We came out here to get better.”
Matt Stucki scored 15 points for Idaho State and is the team’s only player averaging double figures in points (12.9).
Washington State leads the series between the teams 3-1, including a 66-60 home win on Nov. 21 of last season.