Both the WSU Men’s and Women’s basketball teams combined for a perfect 4-0 start on the year. The men’s team got the entire collegiate basketball season under way with an noon tipoff on Tuesday against Alcorn State and the women’s followed seven hours later against San Jose State.
Men’s Basketball (2-0)
The men’s team rolled out a starting five of Tyrell Roberts, Michael Flowers, Noah Williams, Mouhamed Gueye and Dishon Jackson against a smaller Alcorn State team. Efe Abogidi would be the sixth man for Kyle Smith as Smith said Abogidi would see a progressive increase in minutes, sighting conditioning as an issue for Abogidi.
New veteran guards Roberts and Flowers stole the show as Roberts put up 16 points on four threes, including back-to-back threes in a minute, early in the second half. Flowers nearly put up a double-double with nine points and a game-high 11 rebounds. He also added six assists as well. Freshman Mouhamed Gueye also put up six points in his collegiate debut. A 46-27 rebound advantage helped the Cougs bury the Braves 85-67.
The Cougs wrapped up week one of action on Friday with a date against cross-state rival, Seattle U. Efe Abogidi would start in place of Dishon Jackson this time around. A slow start on the offensive end, poor free throw shooting, as well as a late run from Seattle before the horn made it only a three point game at half. The Cougs would find an early rhythm and get back on track, using a 10-3 run to start the half to jumpstart a 44-29 second half advantage leading to the Cougs 79-61 win.
Tyrell Roberts once again led the game in scoring with 17 points. Noah Williams would add 13 and Mouhammed Gueye would put in his first double-digit scoring game with 10. Dishon Jackson came out on fire off the bench in the second half as he recorded 13 points and nine rebounds. Abogidi was a monster on the defensive end for the Cougs with four blocks himself. T.J. Bamba ended up playing the second most minutes on the team (26), despite not starting for Kyle Smith. He put in eight points and nine rebounds.
Overall Thoughts on Week One
The Cougs were able to put their depth strength on display in the first two games. They played 12 and 11 players against the Braves and Redhawks respectively. The frontcourt rotation of Gueye, Jackson and Abogidi will be the main depth rotation to watch as there was always a combination of two of those three on the court at all-times until later in the game when it was just about out of reach.
There was some evidence of early season rust but that’s to be expected. Overall, this team did exactly what it needed to against weaker opponents. Flexed their depth and won games in convincing fashion. While Seattle may have made the game close early on, the Cougs looked the part as the superior team and showed it in the second half.
As for this weeks MVP, I’ll give it to Tyrell Roberts with 16.5 points on 47.1% from three. Not only was Roberts scoring well, he was scoring at the right times. He helped spark early second half runs from the Cougs with back-to-back threes against the Braves and a three against Seattle to spark the early 7-0 run.
Honorable mentions to Abogidi for his four blocks against Seattle and Andre Jakimovski for his nine points and eight rebounds against Alcorn State.
Next Up: Week Two
The Cougs get an early test on Monday night when they host UC Santa Barbara who come in ranked 93rd in the KenPom rankings. The Gauchos are fresh off their first NCAA tournament appearance in a decade and were a popular pick to upset the five seeded Creighton Bluejays in round one but fell short 63-62.
After UCSB, it’s a long nine mile trip to Moscow to play the Idaho Vandals at their brand new arena in the longest basketball rivalry west of the Mississippi River at what will be their 277th meeting on Thursday. The Vandals shouldn’t be an issue for the Cougs. They rank 353rd in the the KenPom rankings. There are 358 total teams ranked.
Women’s Basketball (2-0)
The women’s basketball team also enjoyed a good start to the year with wins on Tuesday and Friday as well. Freshman Tara Wallack was able to crack the starting five for Kamie Ethridge’s group and ended up playing 35 of 40 minutes against San Jose State.
It wasn’t a pretty start for the Cougs on Tuesday night. They turned the ball over eight times in the opening quarter alone and another five times in the second quarter to enter the halftime break with 13 total. They were able to clean it up in the 2nd half however with only two more turnovers late in the fourth. A career night from Bella Murekatete pushed the Cougs passed the Spartans, 86-56. Murekatete put up a career-high 22 points, pulled in seven rebounds and blocked three shots. Charlisse Leger-Walker would add 22 points on 8-13 shooting.
Another rocky first half start plagued the Cougs again on Friday afternoon against Northern Arizona. Five first-quarter turnovers and with a lid seemingly on the rim for the Cougs, the Lumberjacks were able to hang around with the in the first half despite NAU’s 14 first half turnovers as the Cougs were only able to connect from the field at 32% rate. Murekatete once again took over the in the first half for WSU by tying her career-high in blocks in a game with five before halftime. A 9-2 run before the end of the third quarter and a 5-0 run to start the fourth quarter helped give WSU that spark they were looking all game for to pull away and come out with a 62-54 victory over an NAU team that turned it over 22 times. Charlisse would put up another 22 point game on just as many field goal attempts. While the 31.6% from the field and 23.8% from three aren’t pretty, the most important stat was getting the 2-0 start.
Overall Thoughts on Week One
This team flashed it’s potential to be very good. Sure, they had some slow starts in the beginning but it’s early in the season and everybody’s still trying to shake off that early season rust. There’s no reason to be worried about that especially with a well-coached team.
The Cougs defense is legit, that we do know. Led by All Pac-12 defensive team member Krystal Leger-Walker, there isn’t really any weak spot on the defensive end. Charlisse is solid defensively, Wallack can guard anybody at 6’2″, Ula Motuga is a great post defender and Murekatete has been an absolute force already on the inside with eight total blocks in two games. They’ve already forced a combined 35 turnovers and have held opponents to 22.9% from three. They’ll pick it up on the offensive end as the season goes on. Charlisse and Krystal were throwing some unreal dimes and knocking down shots, Wallack will get her shots to fall and Murekatete was feasting inside with some very impressive footwork. Not to mention Motuga’s ability to pop out and shoot a three when needed.
This weeks MVP has to be Bella Murekatete. She first set a career high in points on Tuesday night with 22, then turned around and tied her career high in blocks in just one half on Friday afternoon while still adding 13 points and 15 rebounds. She’s shown a huge jump already on both ends of the court and will be a force in the Pac-12 if she can keep it up.
Next Up: Week Two
It’ll be a long week of practices for the Cougs as they won’t see the hardwood again until Sunday, nine days after their last game against NAU. They will also be making the long nine mile trip to Moscow to play the Vandals who are off to a 1-1 start with a win over Lewis-Clark State College, 95-46 and a loss to San Diego 66-46. The Vandals finished second in the Big Sky conference last season with a 17-7 overall record. One of those seven losses coming to WSU 74-55.