Six players score in double figures for the Cougars.
The Washington State Cougars went on the road for the first time this year, but the Idaho Vandals weren’t inclined to provide much resistance as the visitors from Pullman racked up the most lopsided victory in the history of the long-standing rivalry, 109-61.
The Cougs (4-0) raced out to a 26-10 lead 11 minutes into the game and never looked back; they had runs of 24-4, 14-2, 22-3, and 10-0 at different points in the game. Six different players scored in double figures, led by Noah Williams with 16 points; nine different players scored at least eight.
The computers predicted a big win for WSU against Idaho (1-3), which was ranked near the bottom of Division I by kenpom.com, but fans of both teams in this rivalry — and it is a rivalry, given the proximity of the players who usually are well acquainted with each other — know that weird things happen, as there have been plenty of years when the Cougars have been heavily favored and lost, or at least had to sweat out a close one.
Which is what makes this particular beatdown all the more impressive: The 48-point victory bested the previous largest margin of 32 points, back in 1991, and it also was the first time the Cougs had hit double digits against Idaho since 1966.
It was the largest loss in Idaho’s program history.
Michael Flowers (13 points), Mouhamed Gueye (13), Efe Abogidi (12), Ryan Rapp (12), and TJ Bamba (11) also scored in double figures.
The Cougars are next in action on Monday against Winthrop at Beasley Coliseum.
Flawless performance: In each of WSU’s first three wins, there was a sense that there was a bit of meat left on the bone, even as the Cougars won by comfortable margins. If Kyle Smith is going to go hard on this one as a teaching tool, he’s really, really going to have to nitpick. Offensively, this was the most efficient performance — 1.51 points per possession — of the kenpom.com era (post-2001). That’s because the Cougars shot 68% on 2s and 46% on 3s, getting plenty of shots up because they turned the ball over just five times — only 6.9% of their possessions — and also grabbed 35% of their own misses. Defensively, the Cougars turned the Vandals over a bunch early, and then they just never let up. Idaho is bad, but this is certainly a feather in the cap of the Cougs.
About those turnovers: WSU had some major issues last season with turnovers, giving the ball away on about 22% of their possessions. Improvement in taking care of the ball was a stated priority by Kyle Smith coming into the season, and the Cougars have reduced their turnover percentage in each of their games: From 20.3% against Alcorn State to 18.3 against Seattle to 16.5 against UC Santa Barbara to 6.9% tonight. Obviously, the competition isn’t the best, but we know that it often didn’t matter last season who the opponent was — the Cougars were just going to be sloppy and give the ball away some number of times. WSU has improved from 304th to 55th in TO%, and while this might not continue at this level, it’s mission accomplished already.
Stick it to ‘em: If you don’t think it’s a rivalry, consider — even when the game was well out of reach, WSU was still shooting (and making) threes. Rapp, who had seen just a couple of minutes of action before Thursday, entered the game when the margin was nearly 30 and scored 12 points as WSU outscored Idaho 22-13 in the game’s final six minutes. These guys know each other well, as their paths cross in pickup games and such during the offseason. You can bet the Cougs are relishing the bragging rights.
“We played probably our best game since I’ve been here, to be honest,” said #WSU coach Kyle Smith.
— Colton Clark (@SpokesmanClark) November 19, 2021