Men’s basketball seeks to sweep Apple Cup series

Cougar efforts to stop Stewart, McDaniels will impact game’s outcome



Defending UW junior guard Nahziah Carter, WSU junior guard Isaac Bonton draws a foul in the Apple Cup matchup on Feb. 9 at Beasley Coliseum.

RYAN ROOT, Evergreen reporter

WSU men’s basketball will face the University of Washington Huskies in the second leg of the 2020 Boeing Apple Cup series at 6 p.m. today in the HEC Edmundson Pavilion in Seattle.

WSU (14-14, 5-10) won the first matchup against UW (13-15, 3-12) 79-67 on Feb. 9. and looks to sweep UW for the first time since the 2016-17 season.

Sophomore forward CJ Elleby scored a career high 34 points in the previous matchup against UW. The Seattle native said he plans on doing whatever it takes to win the game rather than replicate his performance.

“My focus isn’t about beating my career best,” Elleby said. “My focus is on just getting the win and doing whatever I got to do to help my team win.”

Alongside Elleby that game, junior guard Isaac Bonton scored 12 points in one of his last games before his recent injury. Bonton has missed the past three games due to a hip injury but was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice.

“[I’m] feeling confident that he’s closer to playing,” head coach Kyle Smith said. “I think we’re heading in the right direction.”

Smith said the Cougars will run a rotation that depends on the Huskies’ zone defense alterations throughout the game. Freshman center Volodymyr Markovetskyy’s playing time may take a considerable jump with the Huskies’ length, Smith said.

The Cougars will play at least seven players in the rotation, possibly eight or nine, Smith said.

UW leading scorer freshman forward Isaiah Stewart has recently succeeded in blocking shots since facing WSU.

In the Huskies’ last four games, Stewart averages three blocks per game, which is about half of the team’s season average. Washington is second in the country in blocks with an average of 6.3 per game.  

You can’t get caught up in that; there’s ebbs and flows. We’ve just got to control what we can control and play well and see if we can get this done

Head coach Kyle Smith

When Stewart faced against WSU earlier in February, he scored 11 points shooting 30 percent from the field, had five turnovers and zero blocks. Smith said the Cougars aim to mix up their defensive approach against Stewart by defending both his post and perimeter skillset.

“They’re playing him at the four some,” Smith said. “We got to prepare for that a little bit.”

Coming off the bench for the Huskies recently is freshman forward Jaden McDaniels. He averages 12.3 points, five rebounds, and shoots 40 percent from three over the past six games.

Junior forward Marvin Cannon said the Cougars definitely recognize McDaniels’ talent, but they aim to dampen his impact similarly to the last game.

“He’s going to be a tough assignment but nothing we haven’t seen before,” Cannon said. “Nothing we can’t handle.”

Washington comes off a win against the University of California Golden Bears snapping the Huskies’ nine-game losing streak spanning over a month. A loss from WSU this Friday would assure the Huskies to finish in last place in the Pac-12 this season.

WSU holds the possible risk of dropping below .500 depending on the outcome against UW. Smith said the Cougars remain focused on each game as its own and will approach the Huskies like any other game.

“You can’t get caught up in that; there’s ebbs and flows,” Smith said. “We’ve just got to control what we can control and play well and see if we can get this done.”

The Cougars tip-off against the Huskies to finish the 2019-20 Boeing Apple Cup series at 6 p.m. today in the Alaska Airlines Arena at HEC Edmundson Pavilion in Seattle. The game will air on FS1.