No Bonton, no problem: Cougs go 6-0

Sophomore guard Noah Williams, freshman center Efe Abogidi combine for 40 points in Cougars’ win



Freshman center Efe Abogidi finished the game with 19 points and 15 rebounds, both career highs.

RYAN ROOT, Evergreen reporter

WSU men’s basketball remains undefeated this season with a 82-54 victory over the Montana State Bobcats on Friday. This is WSU’s (6-0) best start to a season since the 2017-18 season.

Sophomore guard Noah Williams and freshman center Efe Abogidi led the Cougars in scoring with 21 and 19 points, respectively. Williams’ point total is a new career high and the fourth time he’s led the team in scoring.

Abogidi got it done on the glass against the Bobcats (2-2) with 15 rebounds, the first time a Cougar has done so since 2017. Abogidi said because of this the power forwards and centers for WSU were more determined to grab rebounds on both sides of the ball against MSU.

“For the big guys, we came to the game focused on getting rebounds,” Abogidi said.

Abogidi started at power forward and sophomore center Volodymyr Markovetskyy started at center. The duo brought in 22 rebounds collectively, almost half of the team’s total.

This change to the lineup was due to senior guard Isaac Bonton sitting out against the Bobcats, one of his former schools. Bonton endured a high thigh bruise during practice this week.

Head coach Kyle Smith said Bonton should be back to play Prairie View A&M on Monday or Northwestern State on Wednesday at the latest.

Sophomore guard Ryan Rapp took over for Bonton in the starting lineup and came into this game scoreless after the first five games this season. Rapp scored the opening basket for WSU, which caused the Cougar bench to erupt with cheers.

“I promised to take a timeout when he scored but I thought it’d be a little silly on our first possession,” Smith said.

Rapp said he was happy to finally puts some points up for WSU, but he was more focused on helping the team win. He finished the game with 12 points, a new career high.

WSU’s first half performance was easily the best of the season as they led 46-21 at halftime. Not only did six different players score for WSU, but the duo of Williams and Abogidi combined for 27 points in the first half.

This was WSU’s most first-half points all season, but also the least number of points allowed to any WSU opponent this year.

WSU shot 62 percent from the field at the half, shattering their previous season high of 40 percent. The only real knock on the Cougars at halftime was their free throw shooting, which was 66 percent at the half and 79 percent for the game.

Once the second half began, the Cougars gradually lost their hot streak shooting the ball. The Cougars had a few multi-minute long scoreless runs, including a five-minute scoring drought that went from 14:28 until 9:24 left in the game.

Smith wasn’t too fazed about the team’s second half performance after having such an impactful first half.

“It’s hard to beat someone by 50, we were up 25 at half,” Smith said. “They made some long threes [that] I thought we could’ve contested better.”

Even when they had their scoring droughts, WSU’s defense continued to wreak havoc on the Bobcats holding them to just 31 percent from the field in the second half.

The Cougars cruised to victory by the final buzzer and moved to 6-0 on the year. Rapp said the team needs to continue doing what they do best in order to keep this streak going, playing defense.

“Our defense has been really solid for us this year and that’s the key for us at the moment,” Rapp said. “As long as we keep that up, I think we’re going to be looking good down the stretch.”

WSU will face one more non-conference opponent before the conference schedule resumes in a week. The Cougars face the Prairie View A&M Panthers at 4 p.m. Friday at Beasley Coliseum. Fans will not be allowed to attend, but the game will air on the Pac-12 Network.