Happy New Year Cougs! It was an especially exciting start for your Washington State Cougars, who were able to get it done against the USC Trojans, winning 81-71. This was WSU’s first win against the Trojans since 2015 and their first one in Pullman since 2013.
WSU (6-9, 1-3 in Pac-12 play) had lots of great moments despite some rough reffing (we should be used to this by now), so let’s take a look at how the game went!
Justin Powell was first to get on the board with a 3 to start things off, and wound up going 4-7 from three. He landed just shy of DJ Rodman, leading scorer of this matchup, with 15 points compared to Rodman’s 16.
As a team, Washington State went 48.3% from three, and 49.1% field goals. On the other hand, USC (11-4, 3-1) couldn’t quite get things done, making an abysmal 16.7% of threes and 43.1% of their field goals.
- USC’s Zone Couldn’t Keep Pace
Kyle Smith has gotten plenty of flack for his lack of creativity on offensive sets, but he had an excellent game plan for Andy Enfield’s zone. The Cougs went a scorching 14-29 from three, with the vast majority of those looks being completely wide open. Smith understood that he needed to get these looks with clever off-ball screening and passing. The offense was crisp and the overall decision-making and shooting from players was great.
2. The Cougs Seem to Have Real Depth Again
Depth was an issue for the Cougs in the early season, but as everyone has gotten healthy, the bench production has seen an uptick. Mullins came off the bench and went 6-8- 4 of 6 from three- for 16 points. Kymany Houinsou and Adrame Diongue also played solid minutes off the bench. Houinsou only had 2 points, but he had 4 assists and no turnovers while playing excellent defense. Diongue only played 3 minutes, but he has had some impressive moments over the last two games, which could mean a boost in minutes going forward.
3. The Cougs Are Big
Size was a clear advantage in the game, it was exciting to see that kind of success. WSU doesn’t have a single rotation player below 6’5 and that is a major benefit on both ends. USC’s best guard, Boogie Ellis, struggled to 12 points and he got almost no clean looks. WSU, surprisingly, lost the rebound battle, but their rim defense was top notch, and most of USC’s offense came from them making good looks.
WSU was on it in terms of turnovers, they were able to force back to back possessions in the second half.
Overall, this is a very positive win for the Cougs and they looked like the team we expected them to be coming into the year. The passing was elite, the shooting was there, and the defense was stifling. While there have been some frustrating moments this season, this was a reminder of how much potential this team still has.
The Cougars will travel down to the desert for a pair of games against the Arizona State Sun Devils on Thursday and the Arizona Wildcats on Sunday.