‘We got to own the apples’

Men’s basketball comes off disjointed play against Arizona, prepare to host Huskies as agricultural school on Sunday



Then-sophomore forward Marvin Cannon dunks the ball against UW on Feb. 16, 2019 at Beasley Coliseum.

RYAN ROOT, Evergreen reporter

The WSU men’s basketball team will take on the University of Washington Huskies in this year’s Boeing Apple Cup at 3 p.m. Sunday at Beasley Coliseum.

WSU (13-10, 4-6) comes off a 66-49 loss to Arizona at home on Saturday. WSU allowed a season high in opponent rebounds with 49 and allowed two double-doubles during this game.

Freshman guard Noah Williams and senior guard Jervae Robinson both agreed that the team has elements to improve.

“We definitely want to get better in specific areas. Just like rebounding mostly,” Robinson said. “That’s how they got a lot of their points; a lot of second-chance [points].”

Williams said specific room for improvement includes transition defense.

“If we stop the transition, we should be pretty good,” Williams said. “That’s how pretty much we lost to Arizona.”

Head coach Kyle Smith said the team felt disjointed against Arizona but played with purpose.

Washington (12-11, 2-8) has four separate players who average double-digit points this season including freshman forward Isaiah Stewart. In the Pac-12, Stewart ranks in the top-10 in points per game with 17.7 and the top-5 in rebounds per game with 8.8.

Junior forward Tony Miller’s potential return from injury on Sunday will allow the Cougars to be more versatile defending Washington’s length, Smith said.

Along with Washington’s length comes its defense. The Huskies average 6.4 blocks per game as a team, which ranks first in the Pac-12 and fifth in the country. The last time WSU faced a prominent shot-blocking team was against the Oregon State Beavers in January.

WSU was blocked four times against Oregon State. Four players on UW average about one block per game as opposed to Oregon State’s one player averaging at least one block.

Freshman center Volodymyr Markovetskyy played very well against the Arizona schools last week, Smith said. He thinks Markovetskyy will have a greater role against Washington.

WSU holds a 104-185 all-time record against Washington and have not defeated Washington since Feb. 2017 at Beasley Coliseum.

Although the team faced a “rival” earlier this year in University of Idaho, the game this Sunday is not up for comparison, Smith said.

“No offense to Idaho, but U-dub and the Pac-12, that’s a real rivalry,” Smith said.

Washington is on a five-game losing streak; its longest streak since its 13-game skid during the 2016-17 season. The Huskies rank last in the Pac-12 but rank 53rd in the NCAA net rankings.

Robinson said that the Huskies are going to come to Pullman and play hard regardless of their recent Pac-12 struggles.

“We’re pretty sure they’re going to come in and play hard of course; it’s Washington,” Robinson said. “You can’t take any team for granted, really.”

Smith said he preached the importance of this game to the team this week. Smith has the motivation of playing as the “agricultural school” this Sunday against the Huskies.

“It’s all about apples,” Smith said. “Apples to apples, man. We got to own the apples.”

The Cougars will tip off against the Huskies and commence the first leg of the 2020 Boeing Apple Cup Series at 3 p.m. on Sunday at Beasley Coliseum. The contest will air on ESPNU.