Thursday, March 23, 2023

Cougars, Huskies on to Pac-12 tournament

Sports Reporter | March 7, 2023 4:24 PM

LAS VEGAS – With the regular season coming and going, the Washington State Cougars and Washington Huskies now prepare for the 2023 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament in Las Vegas starting on Wednesday.

The Cougars (16-15, 11-9) took down the Huskies (16-15, 8-12) on Friday in a 93-84 win, the most points WSU has scored in a conference game this season. The win also marked the sixth-straight victory for the Cougars to close out the regular season.

“Obviously a great road effort, great finish to the (regular) season for us,” WSU Head Coach Kyle Smith said in a press conference after the win over UW. “Really came out of the gates up 15-3 at the first media (time-out), knew that Washington would make a couple runs at us for sure.”

As for the Huskies, UW dropped its final two regular-season outings against Stanford and the Cougars. In those two games, Washington allowed 81 and 93 points, respectively.

In preparing for a tournament run, UW Head Coach Mike Hopkins said the Huskies will need to improve on the defensive end.

“Our defense has to be better and our young guys have to grow up fast,” Hopkins said. “They’ve got to put their nose in the game, especially rebounding against physical teams. Physical teams have (given) us problems.”

After a 5-9 start to the year, including an 0-3 record in conference play, WSU rallied off four wins in its next five games – including upsetting No. 5 Arizona 74-61 – to move to 9-10 with a 60-59 win over Stanford. Three-straight losses followed the win over the Cardinal, but the Cougars were able to win seven of their final nine games of the regular season.

“We don’t set a lot of goals, we just set on goals of improving,” Smith said. “There’s moments there when you’re 10-15 and it would have been easy for a team to hang their head and play out the string – but these guys haven’t. We’re healthy, finally. Fully healthy, and we’ve been pretty good when we’re healthy. Just real proud of how we’ve hung in there, and we’ve gotten better and better each game.”

UW started the season with a 9-3 record but then lost five-straight games to close out non-conference play and enter the Pac-12 slate. Three-straight wins over Stanford, California and Colorado followed before a 1-5 stretch from Jan. 21 to Feb. 11.

Following the 56-51 loss to WSU on Feb. 11 the Huskies once again rallied off three-straight wins over Oregon, Oregon State and California before the losses to Stanford and WSU to close out the regular season with a 16-15 record and 8-12 in the Pac-12.

“To get to the NCAA tournament, to play the postseason, you’ve got to play great in our tournament,” Hopkins said. “We’ve got to win it. That’s the great thing about March Madness. Keep your heads up, we didn’t play our best game today but these are the things you’ve got to be able to do to beat and play your best.”

WSU earned the No. 5 seed in the Pac-12 tournament and will face off against No. 12 California at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, who went 3-28 this year. In the Cougars’ two matchups against the Golden Bears, WSU left with 66-51 and 63-57 wins on Jan. 11 and Feb. 25, respectively.

UW is the No. 8 seed in the tournament and plays against Colorado at 12 p.m. on Wednesday. The Huskies swept the Buffaloes this season, winning 73-63 on Dec. 4 and 75-72 on Jan. 19.

Ian Bivona may be reached at



UW forward Keion Brooks leads the team in points per game this season (17.8) and scored 25 points the last time the Huskies matched up against Colorado. The Huskies and Buffaloes play in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament on Wednesday.



WSU forward Mouhamed Gueye, left, drives to the rim against Washington on March 2. Gueye is averaging 14.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game this season, the latter being the second-most in the Pac-12.



UW center Braxton Meah, right, leads the Huskies in blocks per game with 1.7. The last time the Huskies played Colorado, Meah grabbed a season-high 12 rebounds.

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