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WSU Men's Basketball
Sports >  WSU basketball

Washington State clicks in every facet, hands Weber State its first loss

UPDATED: Wed., Dec. 8, 2021

By Colton Clark The Spokesman-Review

PULLMAN – In previous nonconference games this season, Washington State had a habit of letting up late after building sizable cushions.

This time, the Cougars lit it up down the stretch.

WSU clicked in all facets over the final 7:30 of Wednesday’s game, racking up 32 points to boat-race nonconference challenger Weber State.

The Cougars handed the Wildcats a 94-60 blowout defeat Wednesday at Beasley Coliseum – the visitors’ first loss of the year.

WSU hit 13 of its last 15 shot attempts while limiting the Wildcats to nine points in that span. Weber State had trimmed its deficit to 11 points just before the Cougs’ eruption.

“It was nice to see us put the pedal down and finish that game really strong,” coach Kyle Smith said.

WSU put on a convincing show overall, exhibiting an exceptionally balanced and efficient offensive attack and holding Weber State to 36% from the field.

“I thought we played one of our best games, start to finish,” coach Kyle Smith said, “especially offensively, and moving the ball.”

The Cougars (7-2) captured the momentum just before halftime and put their foot down out of the locker room with staunch paint defense, crisp ball movement and a quick flurry of buckets from all around the court.

The Wildcats (8-1) – easily the Big Sky Conference’s top program – sliced the lead to three in the waning minutes of the first half, but found themselves down 15 after about 2 minutes of the second.

Forward Efe Abogidi hammered home a dunk and Mouhamed Gueye, another high-ceiling post for WSU, showed off his next-level turnaround jumper.

Guard TJ Bamba, making his start of the year, connected from distance and forward Andrej Jakimovski followed with another 3-pointer a couple of minutes later, then picked a Weber State player’s pocket and fed standout guard Noah Williams in transition.

After that 7-minute sequence, WSU had opened up a 19-point lead.

Weber State closed to within 11 with 7:28 to go, but back-to-back 3s from Bamba and Michael Flowers quelled any hints of a comeback and triggered a one-sided finish packed with highlights to cap what was arguably the Cougars’ most complete showing of the season.

“We just never panicked. We stayed together,” Bamba said. “We told each other that we’ve been here before.”

WSU had let big leads slip in the second halves of wins over UC Santa Barbara and Winthrop, and the Cougars squandered a 19-point advantage in a loss to Eastern Washington.

Gueye recorded his finest college outing, logging a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds.

“That was just me being more aggressive,” Gueye said. “Before the game, (coaches) were telling us you need to be aggressive (underneath). They’re undersized.”

Williams and Bamba shined with 17 and 14 points, respectively, on a combined 12-of-21 shooting. DJ Rodman was bright, too, hitting 4 of 4 on 3-pointers and scoring 14 points.

Flowers chipped in 13 points for a team that shot a stellar 57.6% from the floor, 13 of 22 on 3-pointers, and doled out a season-best 19 assists – first-year Cougars Flowers and Roberts combined for 10.

“Everyone got in on the act,” Smith said. “We were pretty patient. There’s a fine balance to be aggressive and attack, and to be patient. We found that (balance) right in between.”

Weber State was paced by freshman Dillon Jones, who scored 16 points and added seven rebounds. The Wildcats shot 5 of 23 from distance. Typically one of the nation’s top turnover-forcing teams, Weber State collected just 11 takeaways.

“I thought our bigs were just poised in there,” Smith said. “They can turn you over when you throw it into the big guys.”

WSU controlled the glass, outrebounding Weber State 43-24.

“We really rebounded tonight, took care of the ball and we defended well,” Smith said. “That’s a great formula.

“And we shot it well. That’s always a bonus.”

The Cougars and Wildcats played equally unrelenting defense for the first 10 minutes of the game before WSU bench players Rodman, Jakimovski and Roberts – entering as a sub for the first time this season – sparked a 14-3 scoring run with consecutive 3-pointers.

Struggling to find open shooting windows over the Cougars’ length, Weber State went about 4 minutes without a point while WSU opened a double-digit advantage with about 4 minutes until halftime. Roberts’ no-look pass to Gueye for a dunk at 8:15 highlighted the rally.

WSU answered a 7-0 Wildcats surge out of a late media timeout with a 7-0 spree. Roberts finished a traditional three-point play and hit a deep contested shot inside the arc before Williams dropped in a wild reverse layup just before the buzzer to extend the advantage to 35-24.

The Cougars played without key contributors in center Dishon Jackson and guard Jefferson Koulibaly, both of whom were out with injuries.

Koulibaly is dealing with a personal matter and his timeline for a return is questionable, Smith said. Jackson is probable to play Saturday against South Dakota State in Spokane.

Smith said he’ll probably keep Bamba in the starting lineup.

“Bamba’s been our best perimeter defender,” he said. “He had 14 points and guarded a really good player. We could use that.”

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