For whatever reason, the early-season struggles of Washington State men’s basketball caused a lot of fans to doubt the direction of the program under Kyle Smith. Despite leading the program out of the depths plumbed by Ken Bone and Ernie Kent, many fans seemed to be wondering: What was the point of getting all these touted recruits if the Cougs couldn’t win when it counted?
Well, WSU has now done exactly that, visiting Tucson and walking away with a prize no visitor had secured in nearly two years: A win over the Arizona Wildcats — ranked 5th in the nation — on their home floor.
As you surely know by now, it was the kind of win that the Cougars have never had before — not under George Raveling, not under Kelvin Sampson, not under Tony Bennett — and it serves as a measure of vindication for Smith and his players, whose turnaround really began two weeks ago.
The win over the Wildcats didn’t come out of nowhere. Since returning from Hawaii:
- One-point loss to No. 4 (kenpom.com) UCLA at home
- 10-point win over No. 64 USC at home
- 6-point loss to No. 66 Arizona State on the road
- 13-point win over No. 11 Arizona on the road
Losing to the Bruins was frustrating, but it kept a lot of fans from seeing the forest for the trees: Taking one of the best teams in the nation to the wire was an excellent feat — and, as it turned out, it signaled the beginning of a renaissance for a team that is finally as healthy as it can get this season.
WSU has played the toughest conference schedule in the Pac-12 after six league games. The opponents are about to get a lot less challenging, starting with this weekend’s visits from Cal and Stanford.
If you were tempted to write this team off, it’s time to get back on board, because the fun is just beginning. Come along with us on Podcast Vs. Everyone as we celebrate the win over Arizona and look at what’s ahead:
- Women’s basketball welcomed back Charlisse Leger-Walker, who missed a couple of games tending to a personal matter back home in New Zealand, and all the Cougs did was easily handle the Huskies at home.
- Football signed up a pair of new coordinators, and we’re pretty stoked.
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Music by Randy England — you can learn more about his work on Instagram!