Jak-Attack leads WSU to season sweep

First time in program history going 2-0 against Utah in regular season



WSU forward Andrej Jakimovski (23) dribbles past Utah guard Lazar Stefanovic during the first half of an NCAA collegiate basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 26, in Beasley Coliseum.

AARIK LONG, Evergreen reporter

The WSU men’s basketball team (11-7, 4-3) picked up a 71-54 win over the Utah Utes (8-13, 1-10) on Wednesday night.

This marks the first time that WSU has completed a two-game sweep over the team from Salt Lake City.

The win was a resounding team victory over a typically strong Pac-12 opponent. The 17-point win is the largest ever in the series for the Cougars. WSU led the game for over 28 of the 40 minutes of game time.

Andrej Jakimovski earned his first start of the season and capitalized on it, splitting the team lead in points with Tyrell Roberts at 15 and splitting the team lead in rebounds with Efe Abogidi at eight.

“I just think he has a confidence about him,” WSU head coach Kyle Smith said about Jakimovski. “I think he needs to keep playing and feel really good when he’s out there.”

The Utes jumped out to an early lead in the game, going up 4-0 on their first two shots. The teams went on to trade early leads. With about 8 1/2 minutes left in the first half, Abogidi grabbed a defensive rebound and then hit a jump hook at the other end to make it 16-14 in favor of WSU. That would be the last lead change of the contest.

At one point in the second half, the Cougars led by as many as 24 points on the way to their commanding victory. 

Utah tried to mount a comeback early in the second half, cutting the Cougar lead to just five before WSU was able to pull away again.

“We knew we could win those games, but when you actually do win them, it gives you that confidence,” Roberts said about the Cougars pulling away in the second half.

The game was quintessential coach Smith basketball with the team dominating the boards, taking care of the ball and playing good defense. The Cougars out-rebounded Utah 39-29, including 18-6 on the offensive boards. WSU also forced 19 turnovers, while only giving up the ball 10 times.

WSU forward Mouhamed Gueye dunks the ball during the first half of an NCAA collegiate basketball game against Utah, Wednesday, Jan. 26, in Beasley Coliseum.

The team looked relaxed and like they were having fun all game, with the bench standing, dancing and celebrating shots.

“I like this team a lot,” Smith said. “They enjoy one another. They have fun.”

WSU guard Noah Williams sat in on Roberts and Jakimovski’s time with the media, asking Roberts how the team can keep the energy going.

“Alright now, listen carefully,” Roberts said with a laugh and a smile. “Once we turn it on, we can’t turn it off.” 

WSU was coming off a week with very little practice after the two games against the Oregon schools were postponed due to COVID-19 within the Cougar program.

“It’s definitely hard,” Jakimovski said. “We didn’t practice as a team for almost a week. We had maybe two good practices before the game, but we just tried to stay in shape.”

The Cougars will now get set for another home game this weekend, as they welcome the Colorado Buffaloes to wrap up the two-game homestand. 

When WSU visited Colorado earlier this season, the Cougars were not able to escape with a victory, falling 83-78. Since then, the Buffs have hit a tough spot in their schedule, dropping three of six games, all against ranked opponents. 

Tipoff against Colorado is set for 7 p.m. Sunday inside of Beasley Coliseum. The game will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 for those who can not be in attendance.