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

Cougars to follow strong week with Bay Area trip

Looking to climb into lofty conversations, WSU heads south
Myles Rice blows through the lane looking for contact for a and-one layup against Arizona, Jan. 13, in Pullman, Wash.

WSU men’s basketball (12-5, 3-3 Pac-12) got a pair of big wins last week. Now, they are headed to play the Bay Area schools. 

Isaac Jones and Myles Rice are both coming off of big awards and now they have a chance to prove they deserved them against two teams that the Cougs beat last season.

First up is Stanford (9-7, 4-2 Pac-12). The Cardinal are off to a hot start in-conference, jumping from below .500 to above it since Pac-12 play began and sitting at third in the conference.

The Cougars and the Cardinal are the only two Pac-12 teams to have downed Arizona so far, and the Cardinal did it in an even more dramatic fashion than the Cougs did. Their 100-82 victory knocked the Wildcats out of the national top-five and into the eighth spot that WSU would later knock them out of again.

They held Arizona to very low shooting percentages, much as WSU did and shot extremely high ones of their own. The Cougs will be looking to slow down an offense that takes the second-most 3-point shots and makes the most in the conference.

Stanford has five players averaging more than 10 points, but no players averaging more than 14. With the Cougar defense being so strong, the Cardinal will have to hope somebody blows up. They have had at least one 20-point scorer in their last three games. To beat the Cougs, they will need at least that.

More important to stopping the Cougs, though, is interior defense. Jones is on a tear right now and combining him with Oscar Cluff and Rueben Chinyelu forms an extremely formidable interior scoring unit.

Stanford has no player listed at center, but seven-foot-one forward Maxime Raynaud out of France fills that role for them. He has been dominant this year, leading the team in scoring with 13.9 and rebounding with 9.8. His defense on Jones, Chinyelu and Cluff is the matchup to watch, as he will likely need to exceed his .9 blocks per game if he is to stop that Cougar trio.

Following that game will be the matchup with Cal (6-11, 2-4 Pac-12). One of Cal’s two Pac-12 wins came against a struggling UCLA team. Their second win is a bit more serious, as they beat 11-5 Colorado in Berkley behind a 56-point second-half scoring outburst. 

The Golden Bears have not struggled to score, with three players above 14 points per game and one above 20. However, their league-worst defensive rating leaves them out of most games. 

Cal is another team with no listed center, but six-foot-eleven Fardaws Aimaq is in that role for them. He had the best season of his career at Utah Valley under current Cal coach Mark Madsen, and they are now reunited after Aimaq spent a year at Texas Tech.

Aimaq is averaging a solid 15.1 points per game, more than any Coug, and 10.5 rebounds. He is in his fifth year of college hoops, but his first in the Pac-12. Once again, his defense on the Cougar bigs will be the thing to watch, as they have been the lynchpin of the offense.

Leading Cal in scoring is Jaylon Tyson, who also transferred from Texas Tech. The junior guard has nearly doubled his scoring output this season and is now putting up 20.7 points per game. He does it all, from rebounding and passing to stealing the ball and shooting from outside.

Standing at six-foot-seven, Tyson will likely see his minutes matched by Jaylen Wells and Andrej Jakimovski, both of whom have proven themselves to be able to blanket players like him in the last few weeks.

For the Cougs, these games will be about getting into a rhythm. Two more wins would put the Cougs near the top of the conference. 

There are no gaping flaws right now that need to be fixed. It is time for consistency. Now that Wells seems to have earned himself a starting spot his next step is to show he can be a centerpiece on both offense and defense. 

Jones and Rice are already there, and against two teams that might not have good answers for them, they should be able to get theirs and get the wins.

The game against Stanford will tip-off at 8 p.m.Thursday in Stanford. Following that, the game against Cal will tip-off at 2 p.m. Saturday in Berkley. Both games will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.

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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.