After a disappointing dip into conference play, Washington State returns to the court Wednesday against Northern Kentucky to work on its deficiencies in Pullman, Wash.

The Cougars (3-4, 0-2 Pac-12) were coming off victories over Eastern Washington and Detroit Mercy when they opened Pac-12 play Thursday with a 74-60 loss at Oregon. They returned home to play much better against Utah but ended Sunday’s game with a 67-65 loss in overtime.

Washington State’s next conference challenge is not for another three weeks against Pac-12 favorite UCLA. Until then, the Cougars have six more nonconference games remaining, including a test against Baylor on Dec. 18 and a visit to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic.

Despite the loss Sunday, Washington State might have delivered its best performance of an early up-and-down ride. And it came without third-leading scorer Jabe Mullins (14.2 points per game), who was out with a knee injury.

The Cougars held the Utes to 41.8 percent shooting from the field and forced 19 turnovers but shot just 32.4 percent themselves and made just four of 30 3-point attempts (13.3 percent).

Mouhamed Gueye scored 20 points with 11 rebounds for his second double-double of the season and the fifth of his career. Gueye and TJ Bamba (14 points) each fouled out and Washington State still took the game down to the wire.

And it came against Utah, which was coming off an impressive 81-66 victory at home against No. 4 Arizona on Thursday.

“I’m proud of our effort but our execution wasn’t good the last two minutes of regulation,” Cougars head coach Kyle Smith said. “We had some chances, did a good job to battle back and give us a chance to win in overtime but fell short. This one will hurt.”

Northern Kentucky (5-4, 2-0 Horizon League) is on a run of three consecutive victories but will take a step up in class Tuesday after defeating Youngstown State 77-73 and Robert Morris 60-56 at home last week to open Horizon League play. At the Florida Gulf Coast Showcase during Thanksgiving week, the Norse lost all three games they played.

Marques Warrick leads Northern Kentucky with 21.6 points per game, while 6-foot-8 forward Chris Brandon grabs 11.7 rebounds per contest.

“I’ll tell you what, if you’re paying to come to our games, you’re getting your money’s worth,” Norse head coach Darrin Horn said. “I don’t know if it’s pretty basketball all the time, but you’re definitely seeing close, hard-fought games.”

–Field Level Media