Cougars ready for Bay Area battles

WSU looks to continue three-game winning streak.



WSU forward Andrej Jakimovski drives past the Colorado defense to the hoop during the first half of an NCAA collegiate basketball game, Jan. 30, in Beasley Coliseum.

AARIK LONG, Evergreen reporter

The WSU men’s basketball team (12-7, 5-3) hits the road for the first time since Jan. 8 this weekend in the Bay Area for a pair of Pac-12 matchups. 

The Cougars make the first stop in Stanford, California, to face the Cardinal (13-7, 6-4). WSU will follow that up with a trip 40 miles north to Haas Pavilion in Berkley, California, for a meeting with the California Golden Bears (9-13, 2-9).

The Cougars will be looking to avenge their previous loss against Stanford on Jan. 13 in Beasley Coliseum. The Cardinal came away with a 62-57 win that Thursday afternoon. Since then, Stanford has won three of six games, including a 61-54 upset against No. 19 USC in Los Angeles and a 57-50 win over California on Tuesday evening. 

The previous meeting with Stanford was a tale of two halves, with the Cougs going into the locker room up 35-26 before being outscored 36-22 in the second half to give up the win. That second half included a stretch of nearly 14 and a half minutes with no field goals for WSU and the Cougs only hitting one free throw. 

In that matchup, a pair of forwards led the scoring for the Cardinal. Spencer Jones and Brandon Angel each recorded 16 points. 

Stanford’s forwards have been their key to winning much of the season. Their combination of size and athleticism has presented issues for many teams this season, including the Cougs.

“They’re big everywhere,” WSU head coach Kyle Smith said about Stanford’s roster. “It’s just hard. They’re a different look. They bothered us, and we had trouble scoring.”

In the last meeting, WSU was without DJ Rodman, who will be available against the Cardinal this time and should provide key help defensively.

The schedule has not been as friendly to the California Bears since their trip to Pullman. The Bears had a home game against Arizona State postponed, followed by four straight losses, including losses to all three of the ranked Pac-12 teams: No. 7 Arizona, No. 3 UCLA and No. 19 USC.

Their most recent loss against Stanford is Cal’s only loss to a non-ranked opponent in the six-game stretch.

The previous meeting between WSU and California ended with a 65-57 win for the Cougars in Beasley. 

The highlight of the previous game for the Bears was a dominant performance from Andre Kelly. The six-foot-nine forward is a very big body down low and took advantage of a weakened group of Cougar big men. Kelly finished the game with 12 points and 14 rebounds.

Kelly missed the Bears’ game this week against Stanford due to an ankle injury. It is unclear whether or not he will return for the Cougs game.

“Cal’s very physical defensively,” Smith said. “They’re hard to score on. They’ve been scoring the ball better even though they’ve had a really tough stretch of schedule.”

The Cougars will still be without Dishon Jackson for both games this week. Jackson has been dealing with an eye injury and is not expected to return until next week at the earliest.

In the last game against Colorado, WSU was also without TJ Bamba. The guard has served as one of the Cougars’ best defenders this season, especially on the perimeter. 

Smith said following the Colorado game that Bamba had picked up a bump against Utah that had tightened up. On Tuesday, Smith said that Bamba would likely be available for WSU but probably not 100%. 

In Tuesday’s meeting between Stanford and Cal, Jaiden Delaire and Harrison Ingram led the way in scoring with 12 each. For the Golden Bears, Jordan Shepherd scored 15, and Lars Theimann scored 13.

The Cougs will visit Stanford at 6 p.m. Thursday night. Then, WSU will face Cal at 1 p.m. Saturday. Both games will be live on the Pac-12 Network.