All the sights.
The first home tilt of 2022 for Washington State men’s basketball (10-7 overall, 3-3 conference) highlighted the highs and lows in Year 3 of the Kyle Smith era. Defensive dominance and promising showings by young talent was paired with inexplicable scoring droughts and late-game emotional collapses. The Cougars split the weekend with a 57-62 loss to Stanford (10-5, 3-2) but avoided the sweep with a bounce back win over California (9-9, 2-5) by a score of 65-67.
Looking to recreate the magic from last season’s 3OT victory over Stanford, the Cougars got off to a fiery start on defense and led for the entirety of the first half. The second half, however, was not so kind to Smith and Co as an all-too-common scoring drought — this one lasting 12:05 and leading to a 23-0 run by the Cardinal — spelled doom for WSU, which fell to 2-3 in conference play.
The Cougars then changed course on Saturday by doing the unthinkable: They won a close game. No team ever lead by double digits, and 96.5% of the matchup featured a lead of less than five points. But in the final 3:55, it was WSU that earned the victory with a 9-3 run to finish the contest. Sophomore forward Andrej Jakimovski led the way with 17 points, his fourth double digit scoring game in the last six games.
The Cougars will now travel southwest to take on the Oregon schools, two programs with tremendous success in the 2021 NCAA Tournament but now heading in drastically different directions. The Ducks (10-6, 3-2) are coming off a gutsy win against No. 3 UCLA while the Beavers (3-12, 1-4) have regressed back to the bottom of the conference standings.
Can WSU ride their recent successes and get back into the top third of the conference, or will they continue to be plagued by scoring droughts and second half meltdowns? Only time will tell. Go Cougs!