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Three stars from WSU’s win over Oregon State

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Who — and what — stood out for the Cougars?

NCAA Basketball: Oregon State at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes, when WSU’s games end late, about all I have enough energy for is to write up the recap that covers the action of the game. Such is life as a middle-aged man with a real job and children, and such was the case after the Cougs’ come-from-behind win over the Oregon State Beavers.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t more things floating around inside my head. Let’s steal from our friends in the hockey world for this one and name three stars from the 59-55 victory that moved WSU to 3-0 on the season and 1-0 in Pac-12 play.

First Star: That defense!

PULLMAN, WA - DECEMBER 2: Washington State guard Noah Williams (21) defends Oregon State guard Ethan Thompson (5) during the first half of the Pac 12 matchup between the Oregon State Beavers and the Washington State Cougars on December 2, 2020, at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, WA.
PULLMAN, WA - DECEMBER 2: Washington State guard Noah Williams (21) defends Oregon State guard Ethan Thompson (5) during the first half of the Pac 12 matchup between the Oregon State Beavers and the Washington State Cougars on December 2, 2020, at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, WA.
Jack Ellis/For CougCenter

Oregon State isn’t what you’d call an elite offensive team, but they’re a decent one, and the Cougars completely stifled them for nearly the entire game. Even when the Beavers were on their run to end the first half that turned a six-point deficit into a three-point lead, they only scored 12 points in about 9 minutes. In the end, the Cougs gave up just 0.81 points per possession to the Beavers, who had scored 1.03 against California the week before.

The only legit spurt OSU had was the 7-0 run in the first 70 seconds of the second half, which was a product of live-ball turnovers by WSU. After that? OSU scored 7 points in the next 10 minutes as the Cougars chipped away and finally reclaimed the lead they held for almost the entire first half.

For those of us that were around during Bennett ball — it’s hard to believe how long ago that was — it brought a smile to our faces watching a team win in this fashion. Of course we’d all love to have a great offense (it’s coming, don’t worry), but there’s a special kind of satisfaction that comes from dominating on defense and hanging around a game, even when the shots aren’t falling.

They’re doing it in the way we’ve gotten used to, but with a new wrinkle. They’re still forcing turnovers (OSU turned it over on one of every four possessions) and dominating the defensive glass (OSU actually grabbed 35% of their misses, but to be honest, a whole bunch of them came on one possession and the Cougs locked it down late).

But the one weakness last year was 2-point defense — the Cougs finished 251st in that category, 51.2%. This year? They’re allowing just 40%, 26th nationally. Much of that is attributable to the presence of a guy we’re going to talk about in a minute.

I do think the offense is going to steadily improve throughout the season, mostly because we can already see some incremental improvements and so many of these guys are so young. But until that happens, WSU will have its defense to hang its hat on.

Second star: Efe Abogidi

PULLMAN, WA - DECEMBER 2: Washington State center Efe Abogidi (0) and guard Isaac Bonton (10) discuss a play during the second half of the Pac 12 matchup between the Oregon State Beavers and the Washington State Cougars on December 2, 2020, at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, WA.
PULLMAN, WA - DECEMBER 2: Washington State center Efe Abogidi (0) and guard Isaac Bonton (10) discuss a play during the second half of the Pac 12 matchup between the Oregon State Beavers and the Washington State Cougars on December 2, 2020, at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, WA.
Jack Ellis/For CougCenter

A point prevented is the same as a point scored, and if there was some way to keep a ledger of positive contribution in those regards, Abogidi would have finished with more than that five points he accumulated by putting the ball through the basket.

His impact on the game went far beyond his modest offensive contributions; Abogidi was the anchor of the aforementioned defense. He tallied three blocks in the game, but there are blocks, and there are ... erasures:

These are the kinds of blocks that make offensive players look over their shoulder and question whether they should even try shooting the ball around the rim — and by the end of the game, OSU was barely even trying to get to the basket. There was one drive by Ethan Thompson where he got under the basket with what would have been a pretty decent look at the rim, but he had lost track of where Abogid was, so he just went ... nah ... and kicked it out to the 3-point line.

That sort of rim protection has a ripple effect on the entire defense, allowing perimeter players to put even more pressure on shooters at the 3-point line.

Oh, and then there’s the rebounding. Like ... how?

For the record, he finished with 7 rebounds — 5 defensive, 2 offensive. And 2 steals!

It’s hard not to let your imagination run wild about what is possible with Abogidi. I’ve said this before, but there’s certainly never been a big with this kind of athleticism in my tenure as a Coug, dating back to 1995. This is special.

And for goodness sake, quit worrying about how long he might stick around. Just enjoy him while he’s here!

Third Star: DJ Rodman

PULLMAN, WA - DECEMBER 2: Oregon State forward Warith Alatishe (10) reaches in on Washington State forward DJ Rodman (11) during the first half of the Pac 12 matchup between the Oregon State Beavers and the Washington State Cougars on December 2, 2020, at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, WA.
PULLMAN, WA - DECEMBER 2: Oregon State forward Warith Alatishe (10) reaches in on Washington State forward DJ Rodman (11) during the first half of the Pac 12 matchup between the Oregon State Beavers and the Washington State Cougars on December 2, 2020, at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, WA.
Jack Ellis/For CougCenter

Just like the Cougs don’t beat Eastern without Noah Williams’ otherworldly second half performance, the Cougs probably don’t beat Oregon State without DJ Rodman’s contributions. He scored all 13 of his points in the second half, most of them during a crucial run that allowed WSU to turn a 10-point deficit into a lead.

Despite his famous last name, Rodman was an unheralded recruit who didn’t have any big school offers outside of WSU. He had an OK freshman season, but he parlayed some added strength — and the departure of CJ Elleby — into a starting role in the first two games this season ... which he didn’t do much with.

Coming off the bench in this one, he seemed determined to make an impact after the break, unafraid to be aggressive with his shots. In addition to a trio of 3s — that has always been part of his arsenal — he also made a couple of driving layups.

We say this about a lot of guys, but if we can get that kind of offensive contribution from Rodman semi-regularly, that would make a world of difference. We already know he can defend, but this team is just screaming out for reliable contributors on offense. Maybe Rodman can be one!

Honorable Mentions: Isaac Bonton’s second half, Jaz Kunc’s free throw shooting, Dishon Jackson’s debut!