Smith, Elleby lead Cougars to Santa Clara

WSU looks to continue its early season success under new head coach



Junior guard Isaac Bonton jumps in an attempt to block a shot by Seattle University redshirt junior guard Terrell Brown during the game Thursday night in Beasley Coliseum.

Ryan Root, Evergreen reporter

WSU men’s basketball will face the Santa Clara University Broncos at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in Santa Clara, California.

The Cougars (1-0, 0-0) come off their first win of the season last Thursday against Seattle University, and Santa Clara (2-0, 0-0) looks to continue its current win streak.

Head coach Kyle Smith recorded his first win. Thursday’s 31-point differential is the largest in modern WSU coaching debut history. The only previous head coach in WSU history to have a higher margin of victory is Jack Friel. In Friel’s debut, WSU beat Lewiston State by 44 points with a final score of 62-18 in 1928.

“We love playing for him, and this is the coach we want to play for every night,” junior guard Isaac Bonton said, in a post-game press conference.

Bonton had 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists in the game against Seattle University.

Last Thursday against Seattle, sophomore forward CJ Elleby scored a career-high 27 points going 12 for 18 shooting. Elleby scored 19 points against Santa Clara in last year’s matchup in Spokane, Washington.

“We’re focused on the next game right now,” Elleby said, in a post-game press conference. “[We celebrated], but now we’re just focused on the next game.”

Santa Clara won last year’s contest 79-71. WSU is 5-2 against Santa Clara all-time and 1-1 when playing in Santa Clara. Smith is 3-3 in regular-season matchups against Santa Clara when he coached at San Francisco from 2016 to 2019.

Santa Clara ranks in the top 50 in team field goal percentage and total assists.

“Their talent is really good,” Smith said, in a post-game press conference. “It’ll be a [good game].”

WSU recorded just three turnovers against Seattle, the lowest WSU total since 2015. This is the lowest turnover total in the nation after one game played, and two players on the team committed the turnovers.

The Cougars have fewer turnovers than No. 1 Kentucky, who has 28, No. 2 Duke, who has 25, and No. 3 Michigan State, who has 20.

Smith and the players said this is the game plan that the team will run on for the rest of the season.

“We talk about three things: defending, rebounding and taking care of the ball,” Smith said. “You’ll never be out of any game if you take care of the ball.”

Tip-off will happen at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in Santa Clara, California. The game is available to watch on the West Coast Conference network.