Cougs take first game of tournament in blowout

Wazzu victory was never in doubt



WSU forward Andrej Jakimovski drives to the hoop during an NCAA basketball game against Oregon State, Feb. 16, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

HAYDEN STINCHFIELD, Evergreen sports co-editor

It is really, really hard to win seven straight games. Before beating Cal, the Cougs had not done it since the 1982–83 season. At that time, current WSU head coach Kyle Smith had not even begun his collegiate basketball career yet. This is a historic streak and it is coming at the best time it possibly could.

WSU men’s basketball (17-15, 11-9 Pac-12) advanced to the second round of the Pac-12 Tournament with the win over Cal (3-29, 2-18 Pac-12) by a score of 69-52 at tooth-hurty p.m. on Wednesday (more on that later).

The Cougs led this game from the first score to the final buzzer. While there were a few moments where it looked like a comeback was starting, they never lasted long enough to strike anything but annoyance in the hearts of Cougs.

A number of Cougs deserve to be highlighted for their performances in this game. First on the list and likely most memorable was Andrej Jakimovski.

Jakimovski added 10 points and four rebounds, a solid contribution on good shooting splits. However, for him this game will not be remembered as the time he hit a couple of threes and grabbed some boards. Instead, this is the game where he lost his front tooth and kept on playing.

Not long after losing the tooth, Jakimovski subbed back in and nailed a timely three. It might be a little cheesy, but this is the kind of grit that gets a team going and creates momentum.

Jack Wilson played the most minutes in a game that he has all season on Wednesday with 10, and he took those minutes and had his best game of the year. While he only scored 2 points, he also only took one shot. He drew a valuable charge and played some great defense in the time that Mouhamed Gueye was resting, and with no other center currently healthy, he will likely see his number called again later in the tournament.

The next Coug to highlight is DJ Rodman. Rodman has been showing off his ability to make the plays others will not all year, and it has been paying off lately. Wednesday saw Rodman’s second double-double in his last three games, grabbing 11 rebounds to go with his 10 points. Rodman also added an assist.

Gueye was the other Coug with 10 points. He played fewer minutes in this game than he usually does, likely to rest up for when the tournament gets harder. Still, he dished out four assists, showing the conference what kind of offensive talent he possesses.

Jabe Mullins was second in scoring on the team with 11 points and he did it the way he knows how to do: 3-point shots. Mullins made three shots from deep on four attempts. He will likely be a massive part of this offense if the Cougs are to make a deep run.

Finally, leading the Cougs in scoring as he often does was TJ Bamba. Bamba had 17 and while his percentages were not elite he took many high-difficulty shots when no other Coug could get open.

For all of Cal’s flaws, they play hard defense when backed against a wall. When a team is 3-29, you end up being backed against a wall a lot and so they have had a lot of practice. Still, Bamba managed to split them many times for his points and led the Cougs to a big victory where it matters most.