Cougs open 2021-22 season with victory

Starting lineup featured three new faces; Cougs return to action on Friday against Seattle



WSU forward Andrej Jakimovski (23) dribbles towards the hoop during a college basketball game against Alcorn State on Tuesday in Pullman.

TOM ABBOTT, Evergreen sports editor

WSU started the 2021-22 season with a decisive victory over Alcorn State 85-67, bringing the Cougars season record to 1-0.

The opening game of the season was dominated by the Cougars, who held the lead for almost the entire game. The Cougs collectively made 45 percent of their shots, led by Tyrell Roberts, who put up 16 points and two assists for WSU. 

The Cougs started the season wearing crimson and white. As the ball was tipped to start the game, the WSU starting five featured Roberts, Michael Flowers and Noah Williams playing guard, joined by Mouhamed Gueye at forward and Dishon Jackson at center.

After a somewhat slow start to the game, WSU fell into a groove, finishing the first half in the lead 39-25. In the first half, the Cougars made 48 percent of their shots and went 7-18 on three-point shots with 20 rebounds.

WSU guard Jefferson Koulibaly (3) passes the ball during a college basketball game against Alcorn State on Tuesday in Pullman.

The big bodies of WSU seemed to be consistently present in the paint, getting 44 total rebounds in the game, 17 more rebounds than Alcorn State. Flowers led the Cougs in rebounds, accounting for 11 rebounds in 27 minutes. 

“I think he’s about team, he’s about winning,” WSU head coach Kyle Smith said about Flowers. “His previous coaches said ‘your team will love him.’”

Along with winning the majority of rebound opportunities, WSU also put away 15 second-chance points. 

Overall, WSU was 32 percent from three-point range, going 11-34 in the game. Roberts shot 4-9 behind the 3-point line, followed by guard Jefferson Koulibaly who shot 2-4 on 3-point chances. 

Koulibaly showed defensive prowess in the season opener as well, matching up and consistently forcing Alcorn State players to take bad shots. The game against Alcorn State was Koulibaly’s first collegiate game.

“I’m from Montreal, Canada, we’re known to play defense,” Koulibaly said. “That’s what we do, 94 feet, so that’s my identity.”

WSU guard Noah Williams (24) jumps up for a layup during a college basketball game against Alcorn State on Tuesday in Pullman.

Alcorn State shot 23.5 percent from behind the arc, going 4-17 in the game. Leading the Braves was guard Dekedran Thorn shooting 2-3 on three-point attempts. All of Thorn’s points in the game were from 3-point range, tallying six points overall. 

Tuesday’s game marked the first time Cougar fans saw Gueye in Crimson and Gray. The 6-foot-11-inch freshman from Senegal was the No. 34 recruit for the 2022 class, according to 247Sports. Gueye chose to come to the Palouse over offers from other respectable basketball programs such as Kansas and UCLA. 

In his collegiate debut, Gueye went 3-4 from the field, recording six points on the day. Gueye is the third top-100 recruit in WSU history. One of the previous top-100 recruits to choose WSU is Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors.

WSU showed great depth in the season opener, putting up 44 points off the bench. In total, eight players scored more than five points for the Cougs. 

“We had our moments,” Smith said. “We’re still a little like deer in headlights at times because they mixed up their defense.”

Oddyst Walker and Paul King led Alcorn State’s offense, each accounting for 10 points. Both Walker and King were responsible for two rebounds each as well.

The next game for the Cougs is against the Seattle Redhawks at 7 p.m. Friday in Beasley Coliseum.