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WSU flips script

by IAN BIVONA
Sports Reporter | January 12, 2023 3:25 PM

PULLMAN – Having lost five of six games to close out December, the Washington State University Cougars have flipped the script in the new year, winning three of their past four games – including a win over the top-five rated Arizona Wildcats on the road.

“Experience matters, and to do it on the road is even more special,” WSU Head Coach Kyle Smith said in Saturday’s postgame press conference following the win over Arizona. “(Arizona) had a couple of looks, and I guess we were feisty enough to hang in there.”

WSU, now 3-4 in Pac-12 games with wins over USC, Arizona and California, has two conference losses by a combined three points (67-65 to Utah, 67-66 to UCLA).

“We talk about getting better a lot, we talk about improving,” Smith said in Wednesday’s postgame press conference. “After the UCLA game, it felt like we were in there, could’ve really cashed our chips and felt bad about it, but we played well, we just didn’t play the last few minutes and cost us the game, but we got better.”

Leading the charge against Arizona was sophomore forward Mouhamed Gueye, who finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds against the No. 5 Wildcats.

“He’s getting more confidence,” Smith said. “We’re playing through him, and I knew that would take some time, and he’s being more assertive offensively. It’s only his fourth year in basketball, and learning to score comes from repetition. He has a good skillset, he’s learning on the fly and you can see his confidence grow.”

Smith said he’s pleased with the way Gueye has transcended into the main player on the floor for the Cougs this season, nearly doubling how averages in points and rebounds from a season ago.

“Going from about seven (points) and five (rebounds) last year, to now he’s about 14 and nine – and the main, feature guy is really a big jump,” Smith said. “I think he’s going to finish strong from here on out, I think the talent in February into March usually emerges, and I think he’s on his way.”

During the past four games, senior forward D.J. Rodman has averaged 14.3 points per game and is shooting 53.9% from beyond the arc. Rodman has connected on 14 of 26 attempted threes, including going four-of-five against California on Wednesday.

“Now that I’ve had five (games) in a row like this, that’s kind of my baseline now,” Rodman said in Wednesday’s postgame press conference. “I’ve known that I’ve always had this in me, but I’ve never shown it and never had that confidence in myself like I do now.”

T.J. Bamba, the team’s leading scorer who averages 15.1 points per game, missed Wednesday’s win over California leaving room for other Cougs to step in line and fill the gap left by the junior.

“Everybody stepped up when they needed to,” Powell said in Wednesday’s postgame press conference. “Guys like Dylan (Darling) came in, Carlos (Rosario) hasn’t played in a couple games, came in and gave us great minutes. They always tell us that ‘You don’t have to do more when people are out, you just got to do your job better.’”

The Cougars wrap up a two-game home stand against Stanford on Saturday before traveling to Salt Lake City, Utah, to face the Utes on Thursday. Tipoff against the Cardinal is at 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Ian Bivona can be reached at ibivona@columbiabasinherald.com.

photo

AP PHOTO/YOUNG KWAK

Cougar forward D.J. Rodman has connected on 14 three-pointers during the previous four WSU games, shooting 53.9% from three.

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