Cougs hold off Sun Devils to split series 

Good shooting, great defense took down ASU



WSU forward Andrej Jakimovski shoots the ball during an NCAA men’s basketball game against ASU, Jan 28.

HAYDEN STINCHFIELD, Evergreen sports co-editor

When you face the devils, it helps to have guardian angels. Fortunately for the Cougs, Justin Powell and Andrej Jakimovski brought their wings and halos today.

WSU men’s basketball (10-13, 5–7 Pac-12) played Arizona State (12–10, 4–7 Pac-12) in a rematch of a loss from earlier in the season.

The first half was back-and-forth to start. The Cougs got their shots and their stops but it was not quite enough to hold back the Sun Devils who built an early lead.

It has been a while since the Cougs put up a good game from 3-point range. With 12:00 left in the half, they were shooting 17% from deep, but a TJ Bamba make pushed that mark up and gave the Cougs their first lead at 11-9.

WSU guard TJ Bamba attempts to shoot the ball during an NCAA men’s basketball game against ASU, Jan 28.

With seven minutes left in the period, the Cougs still held their lead which was now 20-12. This jump ahead by the Cougs came from five threes in five minutes by Jakimovski and Powell.

Jakimovski was leading all scorers with 11 at the half and Powell was right behind him with 9 points. If you were not counting, it would have seemed like both had more than that. Six threes between them for the half had kept the Cougs afloat and then put them ahead by a lot.

WSU forward Andrej Jakimovski goes to shoot the ball during an NCAA men’s basketball game against ASU, Jan 28.

Arizona State was led by Desmond Cambridge Jr. who had 7 points. The Cougs pulled ahead to a 36-24 lead as their 40% mark had held from three.

Defensively the Cougars were putting on a show, with blocks from three different players and steals from two. The rebounding differential was big for the Cougs, with 24 boards to ASU’s 15 and eight offensive boards to ASU’s three.

The second half was much of the same. With five minutes gone, Jabe Mullins nailed a three and the score was 43-32, Cougars. Five minutes later, it was 48-41. The Sun Devils had gone on a quick run to pull a little too close for comfort. As the remaining minutes rolled into single digits, the Sun Devils were making it back into the game.

Just when things were starting to look really scary, a Jakimovski three and a pair of Kymany Houinsou free-throws made it a double-digit lead again. Those points would be needed as the Sun Devils continued to shoot and get to the line consistently. 

WSU guard Kymany Houinsou dribbles the ball during an NCAA men’s basketball game against ASU, Jan 28.

Blessing the Cougs with offense once again was Powell, hitting multiple threes to keep the Cougs ahead as the game wound down. He ended up with 20 points in the game.

The final score was 75-58. The Cougs shot well and defended well. The final splits for the Cougs were 37% from the field and 41% from three. While the first percentage could be better, 41% from deep is phenomenal.

Leading in scoring for the Cougs was Jakimovski, who put up 22 by scoring consistent points throughout the game to keep the big lead. While Powell made the tough shots, Jakimovski made a bunch of the necessary ones. Mouhamed Gueye ended up with a quiet double-double of 11 points and 15 rebounds. His defense was immensely valuable even as he had a tough time scoring. 

The biggest difference maker between this game and the previous Arizona State matchup was the defense. Head coach Kyle Smith said it best himself.

“We defended a lot better, simple as that,” Smith said. “[Last game] was just a poor effort defensively, [this time] we were pretty good offensively but our D was much much better.”

The Cougs will try to get a streak going at 8 p.m. Thursday against USC in Los Angeles. The last time the Cougars faced USC, they won 81-71. It was their first Pac-12 win of the season. Now, facing them on their home hardwood, things will be harder. Fans can watch on FS1.