Cougs leave Bay Area with sweep

First Bay Area road sweep for WSU since 1993; first 5-game conference winning streak since 2007



WSU guard Jefferson Koulibaly (middle) drives toward the basket during the second half against Utah, Wednesday, Jan. 26, in Beasley Coliseum.

AARIK LONG, Evergreen reporter

WSU men’s basketball (14-7, 7-3) picked up a pair of historic wins this weekend, earning their first Bay Area road sweep in 29 years. The Cougs defeated Stanford (13-8, 6-5) 66-60 on Thursday before knocking off California (9-15, 2-11) 68-64 on Saturday.

The clash with Stanford started giving fans flashbacks of the meeting with the Cardinal earlier in the season. WSU went into the half leading 33-21. In the second half, that lead would expand to as many as 16 with eight minutes left.

However, with a nearly four-minute scoring drought late in the half, the Cougar lead dwindled to just three points with a little over a minute to go.

“We took a punch,” WSU head coach Kyle Smith said. “We battled back. We took another big punch, and we almost gave it up, but we fought, hung in there and got it done.”

The offense in that game ran through Michael Flowers, who led the team with 22 points and five assists. Mouhamed Gueye scored eight points and grabbed a team-best nine rebounds. 

The win marked the first for WSU when visiting Stanford in 11 years. It also helped cleanse some demons from a loss earlier in the season to the Cardinal, in which the Cougs blew a halftime lead.

“It’s a great feeling to finally win one of these close games and show people that we have grown and are winning close games now,” DJ Rodman said following the win.

The Cougs finished the road trip with an equally important and tense win. The Saturday meeting with California earned WSU their second straight season sweep over the Golden Bears.

This one was not a game of runs and big leads like the game against the Cardinal. The game stayed tight all the way through. At halftime, WSU led 33-31. The biggest leads in that half were a couple of four-point leads by the Golden Bears. 

In the second half, WSU built their lead to as high as 12 points. But once again, the Cougs began to squander their lead. 

That 12-point lead came following a three-pointer by Tyrell Roberts with 7:24 to go in the game. WSU would not hit another field goal for the remainder of the game. Flowers hit seven free throws during that stretch, and Efe Abogidi hit one to help the Cougs hold on to the win.

“That’s what good players do,” Smith said about Flowers’s performance. “They secure rebounds. They make free throws. They put those games away.”

Flowers once again led the team with 21 points. However, this was the Abogidi show, as the big man would score 17 points and grab a team-best 11 rebounds. The game marks his second double-double of the season and his seventh of his collegiate career.

The Golden Bears were without star big man Andre Kelly. Gueye and Abogidi took full advantage of this with stretches of dominance in the game. 

The highlight of the game came on a full-court play from Abogidi. The big man stole a pass, took it coast-to-coast and dunked it. The dunk, however, was no ordinary dunk. He jumped from a step inside the free-throw line and slammed it home with a bent arm. It was a dunk that most players would have to stretch for, but Abogidi made it look easy. The play was just another glimpse of the type of dominance he can have on the court.

“I just feel like our team chemistry has gotten better,” Abogidi said. “We were on the road. We’re not going to get the calls we expected, but we just gotta play together, and we did that today.”

Now, WSU faces its biggest test of the season. No. 7 Arizona visits Beasley on Thursday in an absolutely massive game for the Cougs. A win could jump WSU onto the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. The matchup is set for 6 p.m. and will be televised on FS1.