Cougs potentially see bubble popped

WSU men’s basketball’s NCAA Tournament hopes drop following upset loss



WSU forward Mouhamed Gueye dunks the ball during the second half against Arizona State in Beasley Coliseum, Feb. 12.

AARIK LONG, Evergreen reporter

The WSU men’s basketball team (14-9, 7-5) seemed to be right on schedule to make a run at an NCAA Tournament berth following a tough battle with No. 4 Arizona (22-2, 12-1). However, a loss to a team near the bottom of the Pac-12 may have knocked all that off track with the Cougs falling 58-55 to Arizona State (8-15, 4-9).

The loss bumped WSU from the fourth seed in the Pac-12 Tournament down to the sixth seed with a further drop potentially coming from the Stanford Cardinal (15-10, 8-7) who sit one spot behind WSU.

The loss also dropped WSU from the mid-30s in the KenPom ranking down to No. 46. The Cougs were sitting on the edge of the bubble coming into this game. The loss may very well have knocked them off that spot.

“I thought they were the more competitive team,” WSU head coach Kyle Smith said. “They took it to us a little bit. We showed some resiliency and gave ourselves a chance, but you’d like to think we’d compete a little better to start that second half. … We couldn’t get stops we needed and we couldn’t get it done.”

WSU forward Efe Abogidi (0) jumps for a dunk over an Arizona State defender during the first half of an NCAA collegiate basketball game in Beasley Coliseum, Feb. 12.

The Cougs entered the halftime break leading 29-27. Coming out of the half, Arizona State scored seven quick points to take the lead. WSU would never see the lead, or even a tie, again in the contest. 

It was another poor offensive performance that highlighted another WSU loss. The Cougs shot 31% from the field. Tyrell Roberts led the team with 14 points, but was by no means the most efficient scorer for WSU, hitting just five of 15 shots from the floor.

Mouhamed Gueye was a major part of WSU’s game plan on both sides of the court. The big man was a question mark heading into the contest following an ankle injury against Arizona earlier this week. However, Gueye ended up recording a double-double, the third of his young collegiate career.

Gueye recorded 12 points on 4-9 shooting, including hitting his lone three-point attempt. He also tallied a team-best 11 rebounds.

Now, the Cougs look to get things back on track with a quick turnaround, as they head on the road to Eugene for a meeting with the Oregon Ducks (16-8, 9-4).

WSU is currently on a two-game winning streak against the Ducks, the first time they have won consecutive games against the team from Eugene since winning six straight between Jan. 20, 2008, and March 11, 2009. 

This certainly is not that same Oregon team, however, as the Ducks currently sit fourth in the conference and have been receiving votes in the AP Poll. Oregon is a very good team this season, and a big win for WSU could put the Cougs back on track. 

The Ducks are also coming off a surprising upset loss against the California Golden Bears (11-15, 4-11) who went into Matthew Knight Arena and came away with a 78-64 win.

The Cougs’ relatively young team will have to contend with a veteran Oregon team led by a pair of senior guards. Will Richardson and Jacob Young lead the team in scoring with 15.4 and 11.4 points per game respectively. 

This is a game that WSU certainly can win, but it will by no means be a cakewalk for the Cougars. Oregon will bring a fight to try to protect their home court during this rescheduled game. 

Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. tonight inside of Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore. The game will also be nationally broadcast on ESPNU.