Cat fight ends with WSU loss

Cougars could not keep up with Wildcats’ offense in 72-60 loss



WSU guard Noah Williams (middle) attempts to pass the ball during the first half of an NCAA collegiate basketball game against Arizona, Feb. 10.

AARIK LONG, Evergreen reporter

WSU men’s basketball (14-8, 7-4) was not able to capitalize on a special night in front of over 5,000 fans in Beasley Coliseum, as the No. 4 Arizona Wildcats (21-2, 11-1) pounced out to an early lead and never looked back.

“We’re not as good as them yet, or weren’t tonight, but like I said, we had some fight in us,” WSU head coach Kyle Smith said.

The Wildcats jumped out to an early 4-0 lead before WSU equalized on a pair of Mouhamed Gueye dunks. Arizona then answered with a 6-0 run to go up 10-4. 

The Cougs combatted this with a 6-0 run of their own to tie the game at 10 each. WSU was not able to pull even again in the game.

The WSU offense was nearly nonexistent in the first half. When the teams went into the locker room, the Cougars were shooting an abysmal 26.5% from the field, including hitting none of their 12 attempts from three-point range.

At many times, it seemed like the Cougars were trying to match the Arizona tempo, which is not WSU’s game at all. 

In fact, there is not much of anyone in the country’s game to match Arizona’s tempo. The Wildcats run their offense faster than all but two teams in the whole nation, according to KenPom. On the other end, WSU’s offense is the 250th fastest out of 358 teams.

WSU really needed to try and slow things down on offense, as they were never going to win a shootout with this Arizona team.

The defense was much better, however, as the Cougars were able to hold Arizona to just 33 points in the first half, the seventh lowest in a single half this season for the Wildcats. Their overall total of 72 tied their third-lowest of the season.

That side of the ball was the highlight for the Cougars all night, with WSU forcing 18 turnovers, including 10 steals. The Cougars were active on the defensive end and were able to keep the Arizona offense on their toes.

WSU students celebrate after a three-pointer during the second half against Arizona, Feb. 10.

“I’m proud of us,” Smith said. “We turned them over 18 times. We had 10 steals. We were just so small, so I just thought it would be really hard man or zone.”

The one time the defense did not look the best was when they very temporarily switched from man defense to a zone.

“I wish we would have just stayed man, but it happens,” Smith said.

In the second half, the Cougs came out swinging, cutting the lead all the way down to just four points within five minutes. 

From there, a TJ Bamba fast break came up empty and the Wildcats found points at the other end of the court. The momentum swung hard and the Wildcats built their lead back up as high as 22 points. 

“At the end of the day, we were glad we didn’t lay down,” WSU guard Michael Flowers said. “We showed some resilience. We know we gotta flip the page and have another big game on Saturday.”

Flowers led the Cougars with 16 points on 7-19 shooting. Noah Williams was the only other Coug to hit double-digits with 10 points recorded.

Efe Abogidi was able to rebound from a rough first half with nine points, six rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

Mouhamed Gueye put up nine points, five rebounds, a block and three steals on the night. However, late in the second half, the big man came down awkwardly on a defensive possession, rolling his ankle in the process. He was helped off the court and to the locker room, never putting weight on it on his way back. 

Smith said he is currently unsure of Gueye’s injury status, saying he was in the locker room and was feeling good, but did not want to say anymore than that.

The Cougs were without Dishon Jackson, who was questionable to make his return from an eye injury. His status for the Arizona State game is still questionable at the moment.

Speaking of the Arizona State game, that is what is next up on the WSU schedule. The Cougars will welcome the Sun Devils to Beasley Coliseum on Saturday.

Arizona State has not had a great season, currently sitting fourth from bottom in the Pac-12. The Sun Devils were able to pull off a massive upset over No. 12 UCLA last week. They followed that up with a 91-79 loss to this Arizona Wildcats team. On Thursday night, they would pick up their second straight loss with a 87-64 loss to the Washington Huskies.

The Sun Devils should provide a good pick-me-up game for the Cougs. WSU looked good against what is arguably one of the two or three best teams in the nation. The Cougars should be able to handle business in their easiest game in a very, very tough stretch of basketball.

The game against Arizona State is set to tip-off at 7 p.m. Saturday in Beasley Coliseum. For those who can not attend, the game will be live on ESPNU.