Cougs finish non-conference play undefeated

WSU freshman center Efe Abogidi leads Cougars to victory with third consecutive double-double



Junior guard Myles Warren dribbles past a Northwestern defender towards the basket.

RYAN ROOT, Evergreen reporter

WSU men’s basketball heads into the holiday season with yet another victory against their final non-conference opponent. The Cougars (8-0) defeated the Northwestern State Demons (1-10) 62-52 on Dec. 23 in Beasley Coliseum.

Freshman center Efe Abogidi led WSU once again in the win. He led the team in points, rebounds, and blocks with 15, 12, and four, respectively. Abogidi achieved a double-double for the third straight game, making this is the second time in WSU history that a freshman has achieved this feat.

WSU head coach Kyle Smith said he sees a promising transition for Abogidi’s abilities in Pac-12 play. He’ll be tested with the increase in opponent talent level, Smith added.

“I think he’s a guy that’ll keep getting better,” Smith said. “He’ll rise to the challenge.”

WSU went through a bit of a scare in the first two minutes of the game when sophomore guard Noah Williams and Northwestern State’s Robert Chougkaz had a head on collision that caused both players to leave the game early.

Chougkaz left the game and did not return, while Williams left but returned to play in the second half. Williams certainly wasn’t playing like his true self in the second half, as he played just eight minutes and scored once on two attempts.

Smith said he was cleared to play in the second half and his return was not fast tracked in any way. Williams should be perfectly healthy before the Cougars face Arizona State in their Pac-12 opener, Smith added.

As Williams struggled, junior guard Myles Warren came off the bench and had his best game as a first-year Cougar. He played 21 minutes and finished with 11 points while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Northwestern State took an 8-5 lead early in the game, which caused WSU to take its first timeout. This was the first time in the past three games that WSU trailed to an opponent.

Not only did WSU quickly regain the lead following the timeout, but the Cougars went on a 19-1 run that spanned over eight minutes. Northwestern State did not score a field goal for over 10 minutes, and by the time the Demons scored a field goal, WSU had a 24-12 lead.

However, WSU then had its own scoring drought following this run. After scoring a basket with 8:24 left, the Cougars did not score a field goal until there were 18 seconds left in the half. During this drought, the Demons went on a 7-1 run.

Smith said he was not sure why the team’s offense drastically slowed down to finish the half, but he credited the efforts from the bench that kept the Cougars in the game.

One aspect of the game in which the bench outranked the starters was shooting the three ball. Despite 23 attempts as a team, 13 of which came from the starters alone, the Cougars only made three three-pointers, all of which came from the bench.

Regardless of the offensive struggles to finish out the half, WSU maintained a 27-16 lead at half time. The Demons’ 16 point halftime score was a new season low for any WSU opponent at halftime this season.

The Demons came into the second half with a little more life on offense, scoring 10 points in the first two and a half minutes. This run from Northwestern State cut WSU’s lead down to six, but WSU slowly worked its way back up to a double-digit lead.

The Cougar lead peaked at 16 and then dipped back down to single digits in the final 10 minutes. WSU held a single digit lead with 6:51 left in the game, and both sides went scoreless for over two minutes.

Then a thunderous dunk from Abogidi gave the Cougars a 10-point lead with less than five minutes left. This was the beginning of the end for Northwestern State.

WSU went on to score from the free throw line for the rest of the game, and Northwestern couldn’t make up ground. The Cougars held on late, once again, to remain undefeated.

Smith said he’s excited to get into conference play, but the undefeated streak isn’t something to fall back on. More than anything, he sees it as a target on the team’s back.

“The talent level is going to go up dramatically,” Smith said. “We’ll find out a lot about ourselves after the first weekend.”

WSU will face Arizona State University for its second conference opponent of the season at 1 p.m. on Dec. 31st at Beasley Coliseum. Fans will not be allowed to attend, but the game will air on the Pac-12 Network.