WSU hits the road for home game

WSU travels to Spokane to host South Dakota State in first-ever meeting of programs



WSU guard Noah Williams (24) instructs his teammates during a college basketball game against Weber State University at Beasley Coliseum, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021.

TOM ABBOTT, Evergreen sports editor

The WSU men’s basketball team (7-2) heads up to Spokane to host the South Dakota State Jackrabbits (8-3) at noon Saturday in Spokane Arena.

The game is WSU’s second nonconference matchup in a row, winning their previous game against Weber State 94-60. 

Noah Williams led the Cougs to victory with 17 points. In the game, five Cougars scored more than 10 points. Williams leads the Cougs with 14 points per game and 2.6 assists per game this season.

“Just as far as we talk about defending, rebounding and taking care of the ball, we’ve been pretty good there,” WSU head coach Kyle Smith said.

In their last game against the Idaho Vandals, South Dakota lost 98-84. Earlier in the season, WSU had a blowout victory against the Vandals, 109-61. The Vandals are the only team both WSU and South Dakota State have faced this season.

Last year, South Dakota State won the Summit Conference with a 16-7 record over the course of the adjusted season. This year’s preseason polls picked South Dakota to repeat their success of last year.

The visitors have somewhat of a height disadvantage against WSU. The Jackrabbits’ tallest players are a pair of 6-foot-8 forwards. Compare that to the five Cougs at least that height, and the problem becomes clear. 

WSU forwards Efe Abogidi and Mouhamed Gueye are the ones most likely to capitalize on this advantage. Abogidi and Gueye stand 6-foot-10 and 6-foot-11 respectively. Abogidi leads the Cougs with 1.9 blocks per game and plays solid defense around the rim. Gueye comes into the matchup against South Dakota State fresh off a double-double performance against Weber State. Gueye put up 14 points and 10 rebounds in the Cougars victory.

“I thought our bigs were just poised in there,” Smith said after the Weber State victory. “They can turn you over when you throw in the big guys and they did a good job.”

So far this season, the Jackrabbits average an impressive 90.5 points per game and a 50.9 percent field goal rate.

Sophomore guard Noah Freidel leads the Jackrabbits on offense with 19.8 points per game and a 45.8 percent field goal rate. Freidel is electric from behind the arc, shooting 41.4 percent on three-point attempts.

Sophomore guard Baylor Scheierman leads the Jackrabbits in rebounds this season with 9.3 rebounds per game. Scheierman is not shy on offense either, responsible for 14.3 points per game.

South Dakota State runs a depth-focused game plan, similar to that of WSU. Nine players for South Dakota average more than 10 minutes per game this season, compared to WSU which has 10 players averaging more than 10 minutes per game.

WSU has a 63.5 percent chance of leaving Spokane Arena victorious, according to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index. 

“Since Eastern Washington, I think we’ve played six good halves,” Smith said. “Yeah, at Arizona State, we played well against USC and then we played well against Weber State.”

WSU’s Dishon Jackson and Jefferson Kouliably remain questionable for Saturday’s game. Jackson suffered a thumb injury against USC and was in street clothes on the bench during the Weber State game. Jackson had a wrapping on his hand while on the bench.