A season of memories both good and bad for WSU men’s basketball

This men’s basketball season was a rollercoaster



WSU forward Mouhamed Gueye jumps for a layup during an NCAA men’s basketball game against Texas State, Nov. 7.

HAYDEN STINCHFIELD, Evergreen sports co-editor

This men’s basketball season had some of the highest highs possible, but also some of the lowest lows.

At the start of the year, there was pessimism among most fans. Much of the team had left for the transfer portal and while the Cougs were coming off a good NIT Tournament, the general sentiment was this was a completely different team and success did not mean the 2022–23 team would see equal success.

Unfortunately, early in the season, it was looking like that might prove to be true, as the Cougs lost several games to teams well below the level that they were supposed to lose to. The third game of the season saw a bad loss to Prairie View A&M, simply an unacceptable defeat against a school that did not end up with a winning record in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Losing both early Pac-12 games and then having only two wins in the month of December put the season in serious peril.

Fortunately, the Cougs did not back down and over the remainder of the season, they managed an 11-6 record that included a seven-game winning streak. This run put them back into contention for a postseason bid and gave them their fourth straight season with a record of .500 or better. 

A few tough losses ended the season, but advancing in the Pac-12 Tournament and making the NIT are both great signs for a team that has a lot of potential.

Player of the Year: Mouhamed Gueye

WSU forward Mouhamed Gueye dunks the ball during an NCAA basketball game against Oregon, Feb. 19, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

Who else could it be? Gueye was second on the team in scoring, he sat less than 2 points behind leading scorer TJ Bamba at 14.3 points per contest. 

Adding 8.3 rebounds per game allowed him to lead the Pac-12 in double-doubles. His value was astronomical on both ends and his injury late in the year is likely the reason the Cougars lost to Oregon and Eastern Washington to end the season. 

Mo will likely end up declaring for the NBA Draft and is projected as a possible second-round pick. At least one NBA scout was in attendance at a game in Beasley this season. Hopefully, Gueye has made enough noise that if he chooses to declare, he will have a spot in the draft.

Game of the Year: Jan. 7 vs. Arizona

There was a clear answer to this one. While the Cougs swept the Apple Cup and had that huge win streak, no individual game of those achievements was as incredible as WSU beating No. 8 Arizona on their home turf.

24 points and 14 rebounds from Gueye, 13 points from Jabe Mullins and 12 points from Justin Powell were all integral to the victory on offense, but the real magic came on defense.

WSU held Arizona, one of the best teams in the country, to only 16% from three and 31% from the field. Arizona kept shooting threes, and the Cougs kept making them miss. The Cougs were ahead for most of the game and won by a score of 74-61. 

At this point, WSU was only 7-10, but beating Arizona proved they could take down just about anybody in the country. Arizona got one later in the year to split the series, but that first win will be remembered as the greatest regular season win in the history of the program.

There is simply not enough space to highlight all of the contributors that played for the Cougs this season. Justin Powell,Bamba, DJ Rodman, Andrej Jakimovski and Mullins all played huge parts in lots of wins. 

WSU forward DJ Rodman jumps for a layup during an NCAA basketball game against Oregon State, Feb. 16, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

Adrame Diongue played well in limited time in a backup center role he was not supposed to be in yet. Jack Wilson was the story everyone heard this year, a basketball player turned football player turned back to basketball player. Kymany Houinsou came over from France and had a freshman season that showed great potential.

Looking forward and predicting things about next year is a hard thing to do in the era of the transfer portal, but if there’s one thing this season proved it’s that the Cougs will always be in it.

Out here on the Palouse, we have been fighting from behind ever since the first time somebody stood at the bottom of the hill and decided to build on the top of it. 

While it can be hard to be a perpetual underdog, it also builds character, and the Cougs have that in droves. No matter what happens over the off-season, this team will be back, and they will compete. 

WSU men’s basketball team celebrate with WSU guard DJ Rodman after the announcement that Rodman will be returning to the program for his 5th year before an NCAA men’s basketball game against Oregon, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

See you next season and Go Cougs.