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Washington State Game Preview & How to Watch (Part II)

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Can the Huskies bounce back to split the season series with the Cougs 3 days later?

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

How to Watch (and bet)

Date: Saturday, 2/26/22

Tip-Off Time: 3:00 pm PT

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Streaming: Pac-12.com/live

Radio: Huskies Gameday App & KJR 950 AM

Location: Seattle, Washington

DraftKings Betting Line: Washington Huskies +4

Washington State Cougars 2021-22 Statistics:

Record: 15-12 (8-8)

Points For per Game: 69.9 ppg (184th)

Points Against per Game: 63.2 ppg (26th)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 106.7 (110th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 92.4 (19th)

Strength of Schedule: 85th

Washington State Key Players:

G- Tyrell Roberts, Jr. 5’11, 175: 10.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.9 apg, 34.2% FG, 32.7% 3pt, 94.6% FT

Before transferring to WSU, Roberts was putting up absurd stats for D2 UCSD where he averaged 19.2 ppg on 46.3% 3-pt shooting. He has continued to be a phenomenal shooter from the free throw line but the athleticism/length disparity at this level has pretty clearly brought down his 3-pt numbers.

Wednesday against UW: 5 pts, 2 reb, 1 ast, 1/4 3pt

G- Michael Flowers, Sr. 6’1, 190: 13.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.1 apg, 38.7% FG, 36.9% 3pt, 86.1% FT

Meanwhile Flowers transferred from South Alabama and become Wazzu’s only efficient perimeter option. He’s not a pure point guard but is capable of scoring at all 3 levels without turning the ball over and can distribute a little bit as well. Flowers ranks in the top-20 during Pac-12 play in assist rate, 3-pt %, and FT % which is the sign of a quality guard.

Wednesday against UW: 12 pts, 3 reb, 7 ast, 2/9 FG

G- Noah Williams, Jr. 6’5. 195: 10.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.3 apg, 34.1% FG, 24.7% 3pt, 73.0% FT

It’s pretty unquestionably a down year for the Seattle native after a breakout sophomore season had him poised for stardom. Williams’ season-long 3-pt percentage has roller coastered from 15% to 38% to 25% so the hopes that he will consistently be a great shooter long-term are probably history now. He’s still a fantastic defensive option with his long arms causing problems on the perimeter and leading to run outs but he prefers to drive the basket now. Williams is 7th in the conference in fouls drawn per 40 minutes so he’ll attack relentlessly both in the half court and in transition.

Wednesday against UW: 5 pts, 2 reb, 4 ast, 2/8 FG

F- Efe Abogidi, So. 6’10. 225: 7.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 51.8% FG, 78.3% FT

During his two years in Pullman Abogidi has been a completely dominant physical force. If he stopped trying to take 3’s (24% on 80 attempts over 2 seasons) his efficiency would be through the roof since he’s unstoppable at the rim and can shoot free throws. He ranks 5th in the conference in both offensive and rebounding rate, 3rd in block rate, and 11th in steal rate. Oh yeah, while also playing heavy minutes out of position at the 4.

Wednesday against UW: 21 pts, 14 reb, 2 blk, 7/9 FG, 7/8 FT

F- Mouhamed Gueye, Fr. 6'11, 210: 7.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 0.9 bpg, 49.7% FG, 30% 3pt, 45.8% FT

Gueye is the highest rated recruit in WSU history and has mostly lived up to the hype. He ranks in the top-25 in the conference in offensive and defensive rebounding rate, block rate, and 2-pt FG% which is everything you want in a center. He and Efe Abogidi make for a terrifying interior twosome who generally start together and then trade off at the center position.

Wednesday against UW: 25 pts, 5 reb, 3 ast, 3 TO, 11/23 FG, 3/3 FT

The Outlook

For the second time in two years because of COVID the Huskies will get a back-to-back matchup against a conference foe. Last year both games against Arizona State were in Tempe and Washington turned around after getting blown out by 33 in the first game to only losing by 8 in the second one. Coach Hopkins would be very pleased if the Dawgs can pull off even half of that turnaround in the rematch this time out.

It will be very interesting to see what Mike Hopkins changes up from a defensive strategy standpoint after one of the more bizarre games of his tenure. Oftentimes a defense will try to dictate what they’ll allow the offense to do, then the offense figures it out and shifts their approach, then the defense counters. For the most part that didn’t happen. Both teams seemed perfectly content to let the game be decided by 6’11, 49% FT shooting true freshman Mohamed Gueye shooting uncontested 8 foot jumpers.

Coming into that game Gueye had never taken more than 13 shots in a game and had 6 total assists across 26 games. Then he ended up with 23 attempts and 3 assists as the primary driver of Washington State’s offense on Wednesday night. This felt extremely reminiscent of the strategy UW used in the upset over #2 Kansas in Hop’s first season. In that game Lagerald Vick finished 12/23 from the floor with 7 assists and 4 turnovers taking almost exclusively free throw line jumpers. Pretty darn close to Gueye’s 11/23 night with 3 turnovers.

The big difference though is that Washington State played both Gueye and Abogidi at the same time for most of the game. Yes, UW’s centers weren’t stepping out to truly contest those short jumpers and so were still under the basket. However, they were still looking at Gueye which meant they weren’t looking at Abogidi who consistently flew in from the wing to pick up the pieces when Gueye missed. That’s how Efe ended up with 10(!) offensive rebounds and guaranteed that even when Gueye missed the Cougs still got another shot. Washington State got an offensive rebound on 7 of Gueye’s 12 missed shots. That completely negates the strategy if they get an uncontested short jumper plus also a bonus shot almost every time.

And when the Huskies went with their man-to-man looks the Cougars were adept almost every time at getting Terrell Brown Jr. switched onto one of their centers and then dumping it off down low for an easy basket. It didn’t seem like anyone else was getting caught on those switches and I’d need to go back and rewatch the game to see if that was because Brown was the only one targeted or Brown was the only one not fighting through screens and embracing the switch. Regardless, Wazzu’s centers are too good to allow that to happen again today.

Overall, I don’t hate the decisions the Huskies made. Washington State had been coming off a game where they shot 5/32 on 2-point shots and 15/31 on 3-pointers. As a team they love to jack up 3-point shots. Trying to take away the 3 for a team that makes their living off of it and was coming off a scorching hot shooting performance made sense. But I noted in my preview before the last game that the Cougars might be better when they instead try to play bully ball with their talented big men even though it goes against the coach’s natural inclination. I expect UW to mix it up and not give WSU quite as much free reign in the paint and take the risk of a few more 3-point shots falling until they shoot UW out of it.

Considering that the Cougars have one of if not the best defense in the conference it has to be said the Husky offense put up a solid performance. Terrell Brown Jr. wasn’t getting his midrange jumpers to fall but he did a wonderful job setting up Langston Wilson, Nate Roberts, and Riley Sorn for easy baskets when the shot blockers converged on him. It’s unlikely UW gets another 5/9 3-pt shooting night from PJ Fuller but it could be evened out by Bey/Bajema shooting better than 2/9 combined. I wouldn’t put it past Washington to only score 50 points tonight but it seemed like a mostly sustainable approach to get to 70.

Of course one of the other big differences in the game was the unavailability of Emmitt Matthews Jr. Perhaps with Matthews on the wing going up against Abogidi he would have been able to fight better on the defensive glass than when it was Jamal Bey or Langston Wilson. There’s a chance that Matthews could return for this game but until we hear for sure that they’re playing I’m assuming that both he and Daejon Davis are still going to be out.

A return from either Davis or Matthews would be enough to think the Huskies have a serious chance given the effort we saw without them on Wednesday. I see Washington closing the gap getting to play in front of a home crowd but don’t think it’s quite going to be enough given the short-handed lineup.

Prediction

Washington Huskies- 66, Washington State Cougars- 70