WSU hosts 276th ‘Battle of the Palouse’

WSU holds a 165-110 all-time record against Idaho; Cougars have not lost to the Vandals at home since 2014



Senior guard Isaac Bonton rushes past a defender during the game against OSU Dec. 2 at Beasley Coliseum.

RYAN ROOT, Evergreen reporter

The 276th “Battle of the Palouse” between the WSU and Idaho men’s basketball teams will tip off at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Beasley Coliseum. Fans will not be allowed to attend, but the game will air on the Pac-12 Network.

WSU (3-0, 1-0) was supposed to face the Colorado Buffaloes on Dec. 5 in Boulder for the team’s first road game of the season. However, some of the Cougars’ “travel staff” were placed into COVID-19 protocol Dec. 3, and the team was unable to travel for the game, WSU head coach Kyle Smith said during his press conference Tuesday morning.

After the Saturday postponement, Smith said the game against Colorado has the potential to be rescheduled sometime in January. Now, the team is healthy and ready to face the Vandals (0-2, 0-2) at home on Wednesday.

Idaho started its season facing Sacramento State in back-to-back road games and lost both games 77-55 and 73-57, respectively. The Vandals’ leading scorer is senior forward Scott Blakney, who averages 12 points per game.

Blakney started at center for Idaho in the pair of games against Sacramento State, bringing down an average of three rebounds per game during the team’s road trip. The team as a whole averages 26.5 rebounds per game, while WSU averages around 40.

Smith said Blakney reminds him of the future version of WSU redshirt freshman forward Brandton Chatfield. Smith expects a good matchup down low regardless of which Cougar big man will defend Blakney.

“Blakney really plays hard, he’s really physical,” Smith said. “He bothered us last year, just his physicality, and his toughness, and his grit,” Smith said.

Freshman center Efe Abogidi will likely be the starting center once again for WSU, so the matchup between him and Blakney will be a difference-maker in this game. Abogidi had a bit of a hiccup against Eastern Washington with only 10 minutes played and five personal fouls.

But when Abogidi plays more than 20 minutes, he averages 7.5 rebounds a game, 2.5 of which on the offensive glass. That, along with his shot-blocking ability, will prove to be a tough matchup for Blakney.

Abogidi said after the Eastern Washington game in November, he needed to pay more attention to his aggression to avoid foul trouble in the future.

“It’s going to be a problem for me if I keep fouling out of the game,” Abogidi said.

Another key player from Idaho’s lineup is sophomore guard Gabe Quinnett. Quinnett scored the most points out of any Vandal player this season with 14 points in Idaho’s first matchup against Sacramento State.

Although Quinnett is the only player for Idaho to reach the 14-point mark, a WSU player has surpassed this point total three times this season, twice from senior guard Isaac Bonton and once from sophomore guard Noah Williams.

Williams will likely be the starting two-guard once again for WSU, so the chance is that he will be the one covering Quinnett. Both of WSU’s first two wins essentially came off late-game drawn charges from Williams.

Williams puts it upon himself to always defend the “star guard” on the opposing team, and he always is up for the challenge.

“I just go into every game with the same mindset: I know nobody can score on me,” Williams said after his career game against Eastern Washington this season.

Senior forward Tony Miller will most likely be sidelined once again on Wednesday with his “day-to-day” foot injury according to Smith. Smith said his condition is getting better, but it is more on Miller to decide when he feels good to play.

“He’ll try to work himself back in there,” Smith said. “But for right now, I don’t think he’s there yet.”

WSU is 165-110 all-time against Idaho and has not lost at home since December 2014. Smith said hosting the rivalry this time around will feel awkward without fans in the stands, but the rivalry’s presence will still be in the air on Wednesday.

“It’s going to be hard to have a rivalry without some crowd involvement,” Smith said. “There will be a little more motivation on both teams’ parts.