Cougs to play first game of the Apple Cup

Men’s basketball will play UW on Saturday



WSU forward DJ Rodman shoots the ball during an NCAA men’s basketball game against Arizona, Jan 26.

HAYDEN STINCHFIELD, Evergreen sports co-editor

WSU men’s basketball (10-15, 5-9 Pac-12) does not have many games left in the season to turn things around and make it into a successful year. Fortunately, every win against University of Washington (13-12, 5-9 Pac-12) counts double in the hearts of Cougs everywhere.

The last two seasons have seen a home win and an away win for each team, with the last team to sweep the season series being WSU in the 2019–20 season. In their previous matchup, UW won 78-70.

The Cougs were led in scoring by Michael Flowers, while UW was led in scoring by Terrell Brown. Neither of those players are still even playing college basketball. This game will certainly look different than the last few Apple Cups.

WSU is coming off of a pair of tough losses, one that looked close until the last few minutes and another was was an absolute blowout. Mouhamed Gueye had 31 in the loss to USC that could easily have gone WSU’s way and TJ Bamba had 19 in the UCLA blowout. 

UW does not have the defensive presence to stop either of them if they are on, and it will likely come down to that. The Cougs have been struggling as of late to get the whole team going, mostly because of illnesses suffered by some key players. 

UW is coming off three straight losses, all to good teams, and has had a season very similar to the Cougs. The Huskies have the same record in the Pac-12, and while they have some wins that the Cougs do not have they also have lost to some of the elite teams the Cougs have managed to defeat, like Arizona and USC.

Leading UW in scoring this season is Keion Brooks Jr., who transferred to UW from Kentucky this offseason after withdrawing from the NBA draft. Brooks is scoring more than 18 points per game and is a potential second-round pick in this year’s NBA draft.

Brooks is a big wing scorer, something the Cougs have struggled with this year, but he lacks an important trait that makes the path to stopping him easier to see. Brooks is not a shooter. Taking 4.1 threes a game and making only 1.2, Brooks is shooting 28.4% on the year.

The Cougs have the defensive presence inside to slow someone who plans to score on drives as Brooks does and with nobody else scoring more than 10 per game for the Huskies they may not have someone else to turn to. A win here almost certainly involves forcing UW to make other players beat you.

Senior guard Noah Williams has started most of the games he has played in for the Huskies this year, scoring nine points per game. Of course, he has not always been a Husky. Williams played for the Cougs from 2019–22, transferring in 2022 after seeing a minutes and role decrease when he stopped shooting as well as he did in his standout sophomore season. 

Unfortunately, he ended up missing 12 games earlier in the season due to a knee injury, but now has reentered the rotation for UW and is playing at about the same level he was last season for the Cougs.

“It’s obviously going to be an emotional game for both teams, [facing] your former teammate,” head coach Kyle Smith said. “It’ll be a fun environment, it’s a rivalry game.”

He is right about that, it is a rivalry game. As with every season, it is probably the most important game of the year to fans. 

Fans will be packing Beasley or crowding around their televisions at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Those watching from home can tune in to Pac-12 Network.