Cougs go bear hunting

WSU won last three meetings with Cal



WSU forward Mouhamed Gueye hangs from the rim after dunking the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against California, Saturday, Jan. 15, in Beasley Coliseum.

AARIK LONG, Evergreen reporter

The WSU men’s basketball team earned a much-needed 65-57 win over California on Saturday. 

For the first time in a long time, the Cougs came away with a victory on the back of a strong second half. 

“Really gratifying win for our team,” said Kyle Smith, men’s basketball head coach. “Played so many close games and come up short. I think the score ended up eight, but that was a close game fellas.” 

The story this season has been big leads in the first half followed by a second half collapse. However, this game was different with the Cougs going into the locker room with a deficit at half. 

The first half gave us a back-and-forth affair highlighted by some great play from Efe Abogidi. He led the first half in scoring, rebounding and blocking for WSU, despite the Cougs going into the locker room down two points.  

His opposition, Cal’s Andre Kelly, put up similar numbers in the opening frame with seven points and eight rebounds.  

Momentum swung between the two teams throughout the half, despite only six lead changes. WSU held the lead for the majority of the 20 minutes, then Cal reclaimed the lead just before the half. 

The second half began with WSU jumping back into the lead in one of just four lead changes in the first 17 minutes of the second half. WSU would eventually climb up to a seven-point lead before a Cal rally cut it down to two points with three minutes to play. 

WSU would build that lead back up to eight, but Cal never gave up, as a three-pointer from Jordan Shepherd cut the lead to 62-57. 

The story of the second half for the Cougars had to be foul trouble. Both the big men, Abogidi and Mouhamed Gueye, hit the four-foul mark with more than eight minutes left. The duo did not see much time together on the court in the second half because of these fouls. 

With less than a minute left, Cal’s big body down low, Kelly, fouled out of the game. His final stat line included 12 points and 14 rebounds in 30 minutes of action. Gueye followed a little later with his fifth foul. Gueye finished the game with nine points, eight rebounds and two blocks.  

The Cougs would eventually pull away to complete their eight-point win in the final moments.

“To be honest, we were fed up,” Abogidi said. “It’s been what, 15 games, that are all close. We just keep fumbling the ball on the court. I just think we, the coaches and the players, we just said this isn’t going to happen again. Came out and played the right way. That’s what we gotta do every time now.” 

Andrej Jakimovski put on a show. His 16 points set a new season-high for the forward and is his second highest-scoring collegiate game. His top mark came last season with a 19-point performance at Stanford.  

“[Jakimovski] works so hard,” Smith said. “He has such a great attitude.” 

Jakimovski took 11 shots, hitting six. From behind the arc, Jakimovski hit 4-7 attempts. He also grabbed seven rebounds and dealt an assist during the game.  

“I’m trying to be consistent every game,” Jakimovski said. “Trying to bring energy from the bench.” 

The Cougars will return to action on Thursday Jan. 20 against the Oregon Ducks.