Cougs return home for Apple Cup

Cougs return to Beasley to welcome Huskies to the Palouse



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

WSU men’s basketball returns to Pac-12 conference play with a rendition of the Apple Cup at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Beasley Coliseum.

The Cougs look to start the Pac-12 portion of the schedule strong with a win against Washington. A victory on Wednesday would bring WSU’s Pac-12 record to 2-1 on the season. 

The Huskies come into the rivalry matchup with a 5-5 record, having postponed their first two conference matchups against No. 9 Arizona and No. 5 UCLA. Washington then canceled their next game against No. 4 Gonzaga. 

“It’s a rival game so both teams throw the records out,” WSU head coach Kyle Smith said. “I like their team. They’re new, but I think they kind of got the blueprint for what’s been successful at UW.”

WSU and Washington have had somewhat disappointing starts to their seasons, losing to more nonconference teams than expected in preseason polls. Both teams have played Winthrop, South Dakota State and Seattle so far this season with mixed results. 

The Cougs beat Winthrop (92-86) and Seattle U (79-61), but fell short against South Dakota State (77-74). The Huskies beat South Dakota State (87-76) and Seattle U (64-56), but fell short against Winthrop (82-74). Both teams have beaten a nonconference opponent that the other had lost against and both teams are 2-1 against common opponents. 

Although even when looking at opponents both WSU and Washington played, WSU has an 84.3 percent chance of winning the home game according to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index. 

It will take a collective effort from the WSU roster to come away victorious. The Cougs began the season by showcasing their roster’s depth, but have come to rely on individual performances as of late. A return to head coach Kyle Smith’s depth-focused game plan is vital for WSU to be successful against Washington and other Pac-12 opponents on the schedule. 

WSU forward Andrej Jakimovski has been greatly contributing to the WSU offense in recent games. In the loss against Boise State, he recorded his first career double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Jakimovski seems to be gaining confidence in himself from range and close to the rim. Look for Jakimovski to be a major part of WSU’s game plan against Washington.

“I think something clicked, the game before against Northern Colorado DJ [Rodman] and him played really well and I’m not surprised because the hard part is Andrej missed six months,” Smith said. “From April until October almost he had a groin surgery and that’s gonna slow you down. Just proud of him, how he persevered and stayed with it.” 

WSU guard Michael Flowers has taken over the play maker role for the Cougs. Flowers leads the team with 13.8 points per game and 2.8 assists per game. Against Boise State, he had somewhat of a slow game, responsible for eight points and shot 20 percent on field goal attempts. 

Washington guard Terrell Brown Jr. leads the Huskies offense with an impressive 21.4 points per game. Brown is shooting well so far this season, making 46.5 percent of shots from the court. 

“TJ [Bamba] has been our best perimeter defender so I’m sure he’ll get some looks at him,” Smith said about who will guard Brown Jr. “Mike [Flowers] has done a good job and Noah [Williams] with his size and quickness should be able to hopefully slow him down.”

Brown commands the point guard role, able to funnel the ball close to the rim in the hands of forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. So far this season, Matthews is averaging 10.9 points per game with 5.2 rebounds per game. 

“We’re gonna have to do a good job of keeping them out of transition, but it’s not easy because they have some guys that can really fly up and down the court,” Smith said.

Statistics wise, WSU has better numbers than Washington in almost every category. The Cougs outscore Washington 75.7-69.7 in average points per game. The Cougs also outrebound the Huskies with 39.6 rebounds per game compared to the 34.4 rebounds per game put up by Washington’s roster.

Fans can watch the rivalry game on ESPNU.