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‘Cats set for hardwood battle vs. in-state rival Cougs

It’s been a bumpy ride to the start of the Wildcat’s basketball season, but it’s finally arrived. With five games in the team’s rearview mirror, the new season’s getting revved up for the Wildcat men’s basketball team.

COVID forced cancelations against in-state schools Dixie and Utah State, but with the team not being able to battle the Aggies in Logan, it resulted in a slightly farther ride north to Boise where the Wildcats took on Boise State.

WSU fell 70-59 to the Broncos who were led by Derrick Alston, who shot seven threes from his saddle burying five of them on his way to a 23-point night. WSU battle dback valiantly with Isiah Brown and big man Cody Carlson leading the Wildcats in scoring with 18 and 17 points.

Following WSU’s first loss on the young season, the team headed up among the pine trees to the Pacific Northwest to face off with Portland State. The Wildcats split the two games against the Vikings.

In the first game WSU won big, the Wildcats led by 17 at the half and ended the game behind a stellar performance from Zahir Porter, who finished with with 24 points, four rebounds and two assists. Brown added another 18, five and four.

Both guards led WSU in scoring as the Wildcat team put a finishing swipe of it’s paw on the Vikings, on the way to a 28 point run-away victory in the Rose City.

Two nights later at Viking Pavilion, the Wildcats fell behind by a 17-point margin. A valiant Wildcat comeback effort ensued including a 15-0 run for WSU cutting the PSU lead.

PSU’s James Scott led all players with 26 points. WSU had four players finish with double figures in scoring, but in the end the final swoop of the Viking ax fell on the Wildcats who lost by just two points 74-72.

Contributing heavily to the defeat was the Wildcats three point shooting. WSU shot 1-11 from beyond the arc while the Vikings finished 8-22 from downtown.

WSU’s 3-2 on the season, with wins over Adams State, Westminster, and Portland State.

Now WSU takes the hardwood in the Mecca of Utah basketball — Vivint Smart Home Arena —the home-court of the Utah Jazz to battle their in-state rival BYU Cougars.

Although it seems even longer than a year ago the Cougars defeated WSU last season in Provo, where the Wildcats fell to BYU in a lopsided 91-61 affair. But it’s a new year and a new Wildcat basketball squad.

WSU has almost an entirely new roster. Additions to the team include guards Isiah Brown, Zahir Porter and Seikou Sisoho Jawara. All three have been making scoring contributions with Brown putting up 29 and 26 point efforts, and Porter putting up 24.

However, the Wildcats will have their paws full with the Cougars in Salt Lake City. BYU was voted No. 2 in the West Coast Conference Preseason Men’s Basketball Coaches Poll, coming in only behind Gonzaga who’s currently undefeated and the No. 1 ranked team in the country.

The Cougars are 8-2 on the year with losses to USC and Boise State, but the team’s signature win of the season came over No. 18 ranked San Diego State. Alex Barcello led the Cougars in scoring against the Aztecs with 22 points at Viejas Arena, while almost picking up a triple-double by adding seven rebounds and seven assists.

While not currently in the Top 25, BYU’s earned nine votes in the AP Poll and four votes in the Coaches Poll.

With the Wildcats reloaded and the Cougars taking care of business, Christmas may come two days early for fans of Utah college basketball.

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