Cougs to get a taste of the Pac-12 against Oregon

Men’s basketball heads to Eugene after very successful Thanksgiving break

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COLE QUINN

WSU guard Jabe Mullins shoots the ball during an NCAA men’s basketball game against Detroit Mercy, Nov. 25.

HAYDEN STINCHFIELD, Evergreen reporter

WSU men’s basketball will travel down to Eugene on Thursday to get their first look at in-conference play against the Oregon Ducks. The Pac-12 added early in-conference matchups just a few years ago and some are still adjusting. It will be a trial for the Cougs, although potentially not indicative of how actual conference play will go.

The Cougs are headed south with a 3-2 record on the season. Over Thanksgiving break the Cougs went 2-0 in a couple of dominant victories, where they set a record in three-point shooting led by a white-hot Jabe Mullins. 

With Mullins’ unbelievable 73% shooting from outside, WSU dominated offensively and defensively. While these great performances came against weaker competition than will come in the next few games and ultimately the rest of the season, it was certainly comforting to see the Cougs win their way again.

Moving into the game against Oregon, the Cougs have a few things to work out. Oregon might be without many of their players, and the Cougs will hopefully be able to capitalize by bringing depth of their own. Andrej Jakimovski will unfortunately still be out, but third-year forward Carlos Rosario will be available after missing the last game with an illness.

“Carlos should be good,” head coach Kyle Smith said in Tuesday’s press conference. “And then Andrej, not for this week. Probably still further along. A little slower than we hoped.”

Oregon may end up with a lot of key contributors on the bench, leaving the Cougs with an odd one in front of them. On the one hand, the Ducks could struggle with so many important players out. On the other hand, Smith will have to game plan around some serious unknowns as far as Ducks personnel goes.

While the Cougs were playing smaller schools for their out-of-conference play, the Ducks did the opposite and attempted to punch above their weight. This has resulted in a 3-4 record with the wins coming against Florida A&M, Montana State and Villanova. These wins were good, but the first two came against competition the Ducks are somewhat “supposed to beat”. 

Their losses have mostly come against the fantastic competition that they were certainly underdogs against, those being current No. 1 Houston, No. 8 Connecticut and No. 20 Michigan State. A 6-1 UC Irvine team remains the only unranked loss for the Ducks.

Clearly, this Ducks team is likely not all their record says they are. Despite having a better winning percentage and a significant advantage in the health department, the Cougs need to go in with caution and be ready for a dogfight.

After lots of bench minutes in blowouts over the break, Smith will look to further expand the depth of the team as more players get into the groove of things. 

“[Bench utilization] will probably be uneven as the season goes but I especially think [the bench can help] defensively where we need the help at the point of attack and rim protection so we can get Mo playing more where he’s probably more suited,” Smith said when asked about bench minute distribution. “They’ll get better but we’re gonna need contributions from everyone.

We will see if they can contribute at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Eugene. Fans can watch on Pac-12 Network.