The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Cougs crush Vandals to start season

Veterans and newcomers showed out in Beasley
Andrej Jakimovski attempts a three-pointer with a man in his face, Nov. 6, in Pullman, Wash.

WSU men’s basketball (1-0) handled business in their first game of the year against University of Idaho (0-1). The final score was 84–59.

The Cougs opened the game on a 7–0 run. Myles Rice, who started the game at point guard, had two of those points, his first two of his career. By the end of the game, Rice had added another 11.

That first half started closer than the Cougs probably wanted, with the run being met quickly with Idaho scoring and a tightening Idaho defense. It was within four for a moment, but a fleeting one, and with six minutes left in the half the Cougs led by 20 points. By the end of the half the lead was 41–28, and the Cougs were just getting started.

Andrej Jakimovski led all scorers with 11 points on 44% shooting, and he had hit a three. With 17 minutes he led the Cougs and the game, followed closely by Joseph Yesufu with 15 minutes and Rice with 14.

Andrej Jakimovski blocks an Idaho player’s shot attempt in first game of the 2023–24 season, Nov. 6, in Pullman, Wash.

This Cougar offense looks improved from last year. Having an experienced interior threat like former Vandal Isaac Jones creates open looks for shooters constantly, and Jones has the passing finesse to get the ball out where it needs to be.

The defense looks good too, with active Cougar hands… or paws… keeping Idaho’s dribblers in check and huge shot blockers preventing anyone from gaining serious leverage inside. 

The second half looked a lot like the first half in the best way. Jakimovski had the keys to the offense, and he drove. The forward/guard/center/hooper just kept scoring, the longest-tenured Coug proving why he has been a part of this team for so long. He finished with 21 points on 50% shooting, hitting three of his eight tries from outside.

The Cougar interior continued to dominate, with the rebound differential growing from 10 to 19 in the second half. Idaho is just about the best matchup on the schedule for this frontcourt, and the Cougs took advantage of that.

Isaac Jones goes up for a dunk with four Idaho defenders surrounding him, Nov. 6, in Pullman, Wash. 

Jones had 13 points and nine rebounds against his former team, and he led the team in plus-minus with a plus-23. He also had two steals.

WSU forward Isaac Jones dunks the ball during an NCAA men’s basketball game against Idaho, Nov. 6, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

Rueben Chinyelu finished with eight points and eight boards, and he led the game in blocks with three.

Oscar Cluff hit the stat sheet a bit, with eight points, four boards and a block, but his real impact came off the box score. He used his size perfectly to prevent the Vandals from scoring inside even when the other bigs were out, and his dunks got the crowd and the team going like only dunks can.

Head coach Kyle Smith clearly wanted to test out as many lineups as possible this game, and with a double-digit lead you are able to do that a lot better. Highlights include a three-guard lineup with Jones at center and a two center lineup with Chinyelu and Cluff.

The starting guards Rice and Yesufu both filled their roles well. Yesufu only scored five points, but his defensive presence was visible in every minute he played. Most impressive was his speed. Yesufu runs the floor faster than can be comprehended, even when he has the ball.

WSU guard Myles Rice jumps for a layup during an NCAA men’s basketball game against Idaho, Nov. 6, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

Rice was the big story of the game.

“I always envisioned myself, first game back, I just knew I was going to produce in a positive way.” Rice said in the postgame press conference. “I just knew I was gonna be in here talking to you guys after game one.”

WSU guard Myles Rice attempts an over-the-shoulder layup against several Idaho defenders, Nov. 6, in Pullman, Wash.

Rice’s 13 points and three assists in his 29 minutes were extremely valuable. He found the right passes, took the right shots, and played the right defense. It was just about the best way his first game in college could have gone. 

Quinn Denker led Idaho with 12 points. He played 32 minutes. Idaho’s Julius Mims was probably the best Vandal on the night, with six points, seven rebounds, three steals and a block. He got in foul trouble and played only 23 minutes, but his fight against the vaunted Cougar bigs was admirable.

This team has serious promise. There are always overreactions this early in the season, but this really does not feel like one. They look comfortable playing together. The final score of 84–59 shows that.

Next up for the Cougs is Prairie View A&M, who blew them out last year in what was the first warning sign of a rough early season. Anything is possible, but it feels like this time around will probably go a little differently.

That rematch will happen at 7 p.m. Friday in Beasley Coliseum. It will be broadcast on Pac-12 Washington.

Myles Rice scored 13 points in his colligate debut after a long road to the court. Rice served as the Cougars’ starting point guard during WSU men’s basketball 84-59 win over Idaho, Nov. 6. 2023 at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, Wash.
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About the Contributors
HAYDEN STINCHFIELD, Evergreen sports co-editor
Hayden Stinchfield is a senior in Criminology from Washougal, WA. He is considered by some experts to be the greatest to ever spot birds. Hayden began working at the Evergreen in fall 2022, and became Sports Co-Editor in summer 2023.
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2024 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.
COLE QUINN, Evergreen Sports Photographer
Cole Quinn is a photographer and columnist for the Daily Evergreen. Cole primarily shoots sports for the Daily Evergreen and writes album reviews in his spare time. Cole is a junior broadcast production major and sports communication minor from Snoqualmie, Washington. Cole started working for the Evergreen in the fall of 2020 as a photographer. Cole was the Photo Editor during his sophomore year and Deputy Photo Editor for the fall 2022 semester.
SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen sports co-editor
Sam is a senior multimedia journalism major from Lacey, Washington and the sports editor for spring 2024. He was the sports editor for the 2022-23 school year and managing editor for the summer and fall 2023. He plays the trumpet in the Cougar Marching Band, loves sports and has worked at the Evergreen since fall 2021.