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 escape Seattle with a win

Rice hit game-winner, won another award
WSU guard Myles Rice passes the ball during an NCAA men’s basketball match against UW, Feb. 4, 2024, in Seattle.

WSU men’s basketball (16-6, 7-4 Pac-12) beat Washington (12-10, 4-7 Pac-12) in Seattle Saturday. They won by a score of 90-87, taking the first of two matchups between the Cougs and the Huskies.

The Cougs started the game hot as hot can be, making their first seven shots to take a 15-8 lead just a few minutes into the game. The Huskies responded and worked their way up to an 11-point lead with just under six minutes left in the first half.

Another run for the Cougs began in the closing minutes of the half. This time, an 18-3 run took WSU from down 11 points to up by four points. The contentious period saw both teams reach extreme highs and lows, but through it all head coach Kyle Smith’s Cougs came out on top. That has become something of a theme this season.

The second half was as close as the first half, with neither team taking a lead bigger than four points until a Moses Wood 3-pointer with just over four minutes left in the game gave the Huskies a five-point lead.

Two shots from the Cougar frontcourt of Isaac Jones and Oscar Cluff got the lead down to one, and Jones responded to the following Husky make with a dunk to keep it there.

Keion Brooks Jr. and Jaylen Wells went jumper for jumper, and then a Husky turnover gave Wells another shot for the lead. He made it from the top of the key with two left on the shot clock, giving the Cougs an 81-80 lead.

WSU forward Isaac Jones looks for a teammate to pass to during an NCAA men’s basketball match against UW, Feb. 4, 2024, in Seattle.

Sahvir Wheeler drove and got the tough layup with 22 seconds left. Rice traveled on the other end, giving the Huskies the ball with 12 seconds left. The Cougs needed to foul, but it was the worst-case scenario when the ball ended up in the hands of Wood, the Husky’s free throw shooter at 86% on the year.

He made his first free throw, and UW pulled all their rebounders back to play defense. Against all odds, Wood missed the second free throw and it fell right into the waiting arms of Jones who passed it to Rice.

The Huskies were clearly most worried about Rice’s outside shot, as their lead of two points could survive a 2-pointer. Rice drove perpendicular to the paint and received a double-team. The perfectly executed misdirection pulled Brooks Jr. off of Jones and left him unobstructed for the dunk to tie the game.

With that, the Apple Cup was headed to overtime tied 83-83. Myles Rice had been held scoreless since the first, but Jones, Wells and Cluff had picked up the slack with 14, 12 and 10 in the second half.

Overtime began with a Sahvir Wheeler layup to put the Huskies up. Rice was fouled and made a pair of free throws, and Andrej Jakimovski followed him up by doing the same.

Brooks Jr. was fouled and made his free throws as well, tying the game and putting Brooks at a career-high 35 points.

With two minutes left, it was winning time for the Cougs.

Rice began the next possession with the ball, playing catch with Jones before sending it over to Wells. Wells passed it into Cluff, who had dominated the Husky interior defense in the second half. His previous success warranted him a double-team, which sent the UW defense into a spiral as everyone tried to cover a shooter.

Jakimovski’s defender was the second man on Cluff, which meant that Wells’ defender had to run over when Cluff sent the ball to Jakimovski. That left Wells open, and when Jakimovski threw it to him it caused Jones’ defender to run out to the line.

Seeing this, Wheeler left Rice open and went to help guard Jones.

That was a mistake.

The ball made it back to Rice just as he was at his most open, standing well outside of where any Husky could impact his shot. He does not often miss those.

The final 1:54 after that was scoreless, with Brooks Jr. missing two game-tying 3-pointers in the final two seconds of the game due to the Huskies receiving possession on a held ball immediately following the first miss.

The Cougs won the game despite allowing an incredible offensive showing by the Huskies, who made 57.1% of their shots and 40% of their 3-pointers. Turnovers down the stretch let WSU back into it, and a handful of defensive miscues at inopportune times let them win it.

Jones led the way for the Cougs with 20 points. Behind him was Wells, who had a career-high 19 points despite making no 3-pointers. Cluff had 12 points for the game and led the team with eight rebounds, while Jakimovski had 13 points on 50% shooting from 3-point range.

WSU forward Jaylen Wells jumps for a shot during an NCAA men’s basketball match against UW, Feb. 4, 2024, in Seattle.

Despite not leading the team in scoring, Rice was the star of the show. His 18 points, included five in overtime and the game-winning 3-pointer, while his five assists included the perfect pass to Jones for the game-tying dunk.

For his efforts, Rice was yet again awarded Pac-12 Freshman of the Week. It is his fifth time receiving the award and his second time receiving it two weeks in a row. He is leading all Pac-12 freshman in points, assists and steals, and he is tied with Mouhamed Gueye for the school record in Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors.

Rice is only two recognitions away from the Pac-12 record, currently held by USC Trojan Evan Mobley during his 2020-21 freshman season, after which he was drafted third overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Rice is entering serious territory as a player. NBA Legend Bill Walton, who was on the call for the game, called him an “NBA player”. He is the clear frontrunner for the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year award, and there is talk of him being a potential conference Player of the Year candidate as well.

His next chance to prove that he deserves the hype will come against Oregon State. This game is a rematch, with the Cougs winning last time in Pullman by a score of 65-58 behind 20 points from Cluff.

Rice had 12 last time. If he wants to keep elevating himself in awards conversations, he will need more this time around.

That game will tip off 7 p.m. Thursday in Corvallis. Fans can watch 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.
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.