Washington State more than doubled its season average on made 3-pointers, burying 15 on Monday night in the Spokane Arena – while burying Eastern Washington in the process 82-56.
WSU shot 48% from the floor and a whopping 50% from behind the arc on 30 shots.
It was a surgical performance from the Cougars, as they used ball screens and rolls, moving the ball inside, outside and from corner to corner to find the open man.
Junior Jabe Mullins was the main beneficiary of the surgery that was completed on the court as he knocked down eight 3’s, which were the extent of his made shots.
Mullins, a transfer from Saint Mary’s, took 11 shots to make those eight. Coming into the game, Mullins made three 3’s on 11 attempts all season.
“I wasn’t even worried about that, I just wanted to get the win no matter what it took,” Mullins said.
Junior Justin Powell also got in on the fun, hitting 4-for-8 from distance, helping keep the offense hot from outside.
At multiple points in the game, EWU changed its defense to a zone to slow WSU down from the perimeter, but the Cougars were quick to adjust.
They would find a big at the top of the key – very often it was Mouhamed Gueye – who then looked for an open shooter.
“I think (Gueye) does a great job, he is such a talent and such a force down there,” Mullins said. “When he gets the ball, it is either a layup if they don’t crash, but if they do, then it’s a 3. I credit that to Mo.”
“When Gueye is doing well inside, it creates more for others outside,” Powell said.
WSU would also use dribble dives into the paint before kicking it out to a teammate and – if open – would take the shot or pass it back around and reset.
“They mix things up defensively, they’ll play some switch, they’ll play some drop, and they’ll show on the side, but we handled it,” WSU head coach Kyle Smith said.
The Cougars’ outburst on offense was a direct result of time spent in the gym, running through their offensive sets. Powell said the team was out of sorts on offense, so they had some things to iron out, like crisper passing.
“It was nice because the ball movement always helps,” Powell said. “We went back to practice and fixed it a little bit. It was just great having that ball movement because when the ball is moving around, zipping around like that, it creates open stuff.
Multiple shots fell due to impressive court vision and precision passing – WSU had only six turnovers – which forced more adjustments from EWU head coach David Riley and his staff.
Riley thought that the defensive effort and movement was solid in the first half, but that in the second half, sloppiness took center stage.
“There were some plays that we didn’t make defensively,” Riley said. “The second half was just poor defense, we can’t let those two shooters get wide open looks like that and in rhythm. But hats off to them, they did make some tough shots early.”
Riley said the lapses on defense aren’t something to expect moving forward; in fact, he believes the Eagles are a very high-IQ defensive team and usually do a good job at knocking teams out of their offensive flow.
“We did make a lot of adjustments, but they did a good job, especially in the second half of moving the ball, getting to the paint and not forcing up early shots,” Riley said. “They made that extra pass and that is how those shooters got open looks.”
Mullins, the top recruit out of the state of Washington in 2020, was brought to Pullman to be a sharpshooter. He had gotten off to a slow start , but with him getting hot Monday, Smith knows every opponent the rest of the season will have to account for him to make sure he doesn’t put on another shooting clinic.
“He might draw an even more dedicated defender, which makes the other four guys better,” Smith said.
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