The Washington State Cougars like to think they have changed a great deal since they last faced Montana State, and Friday night they hope to prove it to the Bobcats when they meet in a nonconference game in Pullman, Wash.
Two years ago, Montana State beat WSU 95-90 for the Bobcats' first win over a Pacific-12 Conference club since 2011.
The Cougars won only 11 games in that 2018-19 season, after which Kyle Smith became head coach. Since then, they are 21-16, including a 5-0 start this season.
This contest brings together a Washington State team that has ridden a stingy defense this season and a Montana State squad that has put up some big offensive numbers.
The Cougars have yet to allow more than 68 points in five tightly contested games. Their average margin of victory is just 4.6 points, but they remain unbeaten.
Through Wednesday's games, Washington State ranked 25th in the nation in scoring defense (58.6) and 14th in opponent's field goal percentage (34.8).
The Cougars have outscored their opponents by an average of 5.0 points at the free throw line. Isaac Bonton leads them in that category, converting an average of 5.4 foul shots per game en route to a team-high 17.4 scoring average.
Bonton, who began his college career at Montana State, is looking forward to the reunion.
"I love Montana State to this day," the transfer said. "There wasn't any bitterness or anything. Just felt like I had to do what I had to do, move on with my career."
Bonton's old mates have jelled into a well-oiled offensive machine. The Bobcats surprised UNLV with 91 points in an opening win, before exploding for 114 in a 40-point romp over Yellowstone Christian last Sunday.
Coming off a loss to Pacific, Montana State coach Danny Sprinkle noted that his guys got an opportunity to regain a little swagger against an outmatched opponent from the National Christian College Athletic Association.
"I'm glad our guys got some confidence out of it," he observed. "Guys that we wanted to break out offensively like Mike (Hood), Abdul (Mohamed) -- guys that are capable of doing that, I think it was really good for them to get out on the court and be more aggressive offensively. We know it's not going to be the same the next couple of games."
Hood had a career-high 21 points in the win, while Mohamed recorded a double-double with 14 points and 11 assists.
--Field Level Media