The WSU Cougars will take on Utah tomorrow in Salt Lake City, hoping to end a 14-game losing streak there.
The WSU Cougars have played better than most thought up to this point in the season. Ernie Kent’s team has rebounded from a one-win Pac-12 season last year to quadruple their win total with seven games still to play. At 4-7 heading into a road date with Utah, the Cougs have made strides toward respectability this year.
But the team has relied on freshman guard Malachi Flynn to keep up his hot start to the season for too long. Flynn, who started his WSU Cougars career hot, dropping 27 points in a November 30th game against Utah Valley. In his last three games, however, Flynn went 9-for-30 from the field, scoring only 24 points. In his last game against USC, Flynn shot a miserable 4-for-14 from the field, only 1-8 from three-point range.
How Flynn recovers from a bad game will likely determine the WSU Cougars fate against the Utah Utes tomorrow night (6pm, Pac-12 Network). Salt Lake City is a charming town with wide, friendly streets and a huge, 120-year-old Mormon temple, but the Cougars haven’t won there since 1946. Utah is 14-1 against the Cougs at home all time. Flynn, Kent, and company have their work cut out for them.
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The Utes are coming off a loss to the Stanford Cardinal at Maples Pavilion 81-75. Their offense still ranks near the best in the nation–they’re fifth in the NCAA in shooting percentage, hitting 51% of their shots from the field. Junior Kyle Kuzma has posted 14 double-doubles on the season. He and senior Lorenzo Bonam became the first Utah duo ever to score over 300 points in a season each.
For the WSU Cougars to flip the script on the Utes, they’ll need Flynn to snap out of his shooting slump. They’ll also need Josh Hawkinson to outperform his double-double averages: 16.0 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. The Cougars will need Hawkinson to anchor their rebounding effort against the Utes’ big men, a tall order. The Cougars average only 32.3 rebounds per game as a team, last in the Pac-12.
Beating the Utes on the road would be a landmark win for the Cougars, but they’ll need an otherworldly effort from the entire team, particularly Flynn, who appears to be suffering from tired legs of late.
Still, not impossible. Could this be the night the Salt Lake City blues end?