PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State men’s basketball will face a Big 12 opponent for the 10th and 11th-consecutive years as it has reached a two-year agreement to play Kansas State beginning with a Dec. 10, 2016 meeting at the Sprint Center at Kansas City, the two schools announced Monday. The return contest will take place at Spokane Arena, Dec. 20, 2017.
“We’re excited about the two-year series with Kansas State because it gives us a great opportunity to play a well-coached, high-caliber team early in the season,” Kent said. “Coming off the Paradise Jam in late November and playing K-State at Kansas City in December will be a great test and will help us see where we’re at as we prepare for Pac-12 play.”
The Cougars have faced a Big 12 opponent each season since 2007-08, which was the first game of a four-year long agreement for the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series. WSU last played at the Sprint Center in the College Basketball Experience (CBE) Classic, Nov. 19 and Nov. 20, 2012, notching losses to Kansas and Texas A&M.
The game will mark the seventh meeting between Washington State and Kansas State, and the first at a neutral site. K-State holds a 4-2 edge in a series that dates back to 1941 with wins in three of the last four meetings since 2004. The Wildcats swept a home-and-home series in 2009 and 2010, earning an 86-69 win at home before a 63-58 victory at Pullman.
Led by third-year head coach Ernie Kent, Washington State is set to return seven lettermen in 2016-17, including three starters and rising seniors, forward Josh Hawkinson (15.4 ppg, 11.1 rpg) and guards Ike Iroegbu (12.7 ppg, 3.6 apg) and Charles Callison (7.9 ppg, 3.0 apg). Hawkinson, who was named an honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection in 2015-16, led WSU in both scoring and rebounding as a junior and is on pace to become the first Cougar and 13th Pac-12 men’s basketball student-athlete to score 1,000 points and grab 1,000 rebounds in a career. WSU returns four of its top five scorers from 2015-16, bringing back 67 percent of its scoring and 68 percent of its assists.
The Wildcats (17-16, 5-13 Big 12) will return a veteran roster in 2016-17 with nine returning lettermen and six players returning with starting experience, highlighted by All-Big 12 Third Team selection Wesley Iwundu and All-Newcomer honorees Barry Brown and Dean Wade. Overall, the squad returns five of its top six scorers from last season, along with nearly 70 percent of their rebounding, assist, steal and minute totals. Iwundu (11.9 ppg., 4.5 rpg.) is the team’s top returner in scoring, assists and steals, while rising senior D.J. Johnson (9.3 ppg., 5.2 rpg.) is the leader among three returning players (along with Iwundu and Wade) who averaged better than 4 rebounds per contest a season ago.
It was announced earlier in May that WSU will take on Creighton in the first round of the 2016 Paradise Jam, Friday, Nov. 18. Washington State’s complete nonconference schedule will be announced at a later date.