Cougs undefeated runs come to end in Week Three

Geoff Crimmins | The Spokesman-Review

One expected and one highly disappointing results ended WSU’s Women’s and Men’s basketball undefeated starts to the 2021-22 seasons. Both teams started out with promising wins but ultimately ended the week with losses.

Men’s Basketball (1-1)

The Cougs tipped off week three with another early season out of conference test against the Winthrop Eagles who, like UCSB, were a tournament team just a year ago. The Cougs dominated the first half, leading by as many as 23. They would head to the locker up 19 after Michael Flowers would put up all seven of his first half points in the final 74 seconds.

Patrick Good of Winthrop would start the second half with his first of nine second half threes on his way to a career night with 11 total threes and 35 points after starting the game off the bench. Russell Jones Jr. would add 19 of his own but the clock would run out on Winthrop and WSU would escape with a 92-86 win. Flowers and Noah Williams would combine for 39 for WSU.

With Noah Williams and T.J. Bamba both out due to neck injuries, the Cougs were still expected to easily handle the lowly Eastern Washington Eagles to conclude the week. WSU would use an 20-2 run in the first half to extend their lead all the way to 19 before a late eight point Eagles run would close the halftime lead to just 12.

Eastern opened the second half with a 10 point run to close the lead to just two and would eventually take a 48-47 lead with 12:27 to go. The Cougs would continue to shoot poorly and Eastern would take advantage, leading by as much as seven with just over a minute to go. The Eagles would gift the Cougs an opportunity after an errant in-bounds pass would give WSU the ball down five with 55 seconds to go. Tyrell Roberts would bank in the layup to make it a one possession game with WSU needing a stop. Eastern would miss the close range shot but would get the offensive rebound as the Cougs tried to transition into offense too early. A pair of free throws for Eastern would fall and 10 seconds later, WSU added their first loss of the season, a very bad loss, to Eastern Washington to their resume. Final score, 76-71 Eagles.

WSU would make just nine field goals in the second half, including nearly five separate occasions where they would go nearly three minutes or more without a made field goal. Outside of Roberts and Flowers, the rest of the Cougs would have just 27 points on 6-30 (20%) shooting from the field. Yuck.

Overall Thoughts on Week Three

The Kyle Smith teams we’ve grown accustom to on the Palouse have been sound defensively. This season, the Cougs have shown some major flaws on the defensive end, especially in the second half of games. They rank 86th in adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom after finishing 24th last year.

Efe Abogidi is a major key of this being a fantastic rim protector. Abogidi recorded zero blocks this week after recording six and seven in the first two weeks. He was placed on a minutes restriction last week by Kyle Smith as he continues to nurse a knee injury.

The cold multiple-minute long shooting streaks plagued WSU last year and hurt them again against Eastern Washington. It doesn’t help that WSU was missing Williams and Bamba but they need to find alternative scoring outside of Flowers and Roberts. Dishon Jackson was the third leading scorer in that game with nine points, five of those coming from the charity stripe.

It’s not time to hit the panic button yet of course. Williams and Bamba should be back for Wednesday’s Pac-12 opener against Arizona State according to Smith. Abogidi will hopefully get his knee rested and be able to get off minutes restriction in due time. The future is still bright. But the Cougs have to clean up the defense quickly before the better Pac-12 offenses eat them alive.

Next Up

It’s the first installment of conference play for WSU begins Wednesday in Tempe, Arizona against the Arizona State Sun Devils (2-5). ASU has struggled to open up the year but have played some stiff competition with all but one of their losses (UC Riverside by one) coming from top-60 KenPom teams. They’ll still be arguably the toughest team WSU has seen yet and it will be WSU’s first ‘true’ away game with Tempe being a little more than a 20 minute drive that WSU had to do to play Idaho in Moscow.

WSU will conclude the week with their first ranked match-up and home conference opener Saturday afternoon against the No. 20 USC Trojans. The Trojans have cruised to a perfect 6-0 record with all but one of their wins being by at least 15 points. Their latest win comes against the San Diego State Aztecs 58-43 to claim the Paycom Wooden Legacy tournament championship. The Trojan defense held the Aztecs to just 15 first half points and sit at 6th in adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom. The remaining Mobley brother, Isaiah, leads the way for the Trojans, currently averaging 12.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists.

Women’s Basketball (1-1)

The current weather in The Bahamas is a cool 73 degrees and sunny. This is the type of weather the WSU Women’s basketball team got to enjoy for their Thanksgiving break when they played in the Baha Mar Hoops Pink Flamingo Championship in The Bahamas.

WSU would start the challenge without forward Ula Motuga for the second straight game with a undisclosed injury. Johanna Teder would once again get the start in Motuga’s spot against a decent Miami Hurricanes team on Thanksgiving day. Despite six first quarter turnovers, WSU’s defense was up to the task, holding Miami to just four of 17 (23.5%) from the field in the first quarter. WSU couldn’t overcome the turnovers in the second quarter as another eight turnovers from WSU helped the Hurricanes tie the game going into the half at 25.

The Cougs dominated the third quarter at a 25-8 advantage led by Charlisse Leger-Walker’s nine points and three assists. Johanna Teder would add seven and Bella Murekatete added another six of her own. Teder would end up leading all scorers with 15 while Charlisse led the game in assists with six and a career-high 15 rebounds as the Cougs cruised to a 62-47 victory.

Two days later, WSU would face the No. 5 NC State Wolfpack. Teder would give the Cougs the early 3-2 lead with Murekatete adding a layup to push the lead to three for WSU at 5-2 with 6:22 left in the half. WSU would hold the lead at the first media timeout halfway through the first quarter, but the Wolfpack would take the lead back on a 12 point run and never look back.

5’5 sophomore Diamond Johnson for NC State was incredible off the bench. Her 24 points and four threes were both career highs. Johnson was the only player to hit double-digit points in the game.

WSU’s defense would do a decent job of keeping the rest of the Wolfpack offense at bay, but struggled on the other end. The Cougs shot just 25.5% from the field and 17.4% from three. 16 turnovers to add to the poor shooting limited WSU’s highest scoring quarter to the third with just 12 points as NC State was able to dominate the Cougs 62-34.

Overall Thoughts on Week Three

Week three went about as you would expect it to. The 15-point win over Miami on 47.1% shooting without Motuga was as solid of a win as you could hope for. The defense suffocated the Hurricanes and the offensive arguably played it’s best game since the season opener against San Jose State.

The NC State blowout you can’t really blame on WSU entirely. The Wolfpack are truly one of the best teams in the nation and are making a push at a national championship. They are just simply the more talented team and it showed. Hopefully WSU can fine-tune the offense and get another shot at the Wolfpack in March.

Next Up

A home game against the San Francisco Dons and a road trip to UC Davis will be the Cougs week four slate. The Dons rank 150th in RPI and are 4-3. They do share a common game with the Cougs as they also defeated the Idaho Vandals. The UC Davis Aggies will first face the Oregon Ducks before welcoming in the Cougs. UC Davis fell to San Francisco by 27 earlier in the year so the score of the WSU-SF game should be an indicator of how WSU may fair against the Aggies.