Part I of the Boeing Classic Apple Cup for Hoops is upon us. Not quite with the same luster as on the Football side but a rivalry all the same, as the Washington Huskies (13-12 and 5-9) traveled to the Palouse to battle the Washington State Cougars (10-15 and 5-9). If you were hoping for fireworks, you may have to wait until the Super Bowl as the Huskies and the Cougars could barely muster over 100 combined points. The Cougars would end up outlasting the Huskies by a final score of 56 to 51 (hopefully you had the Under in this one).
Tell me if you have heard this before but the Huskies got off to a slow start to begin the game, missing the first 10 attempts in the first 6 minutes of the game. The Huskies got some good looks early on but mostly from the outside, which hasn’t been the Huskies specialty all season. Leading scorer Keion Brooks started slowly as well with an 0/3 start but more importantly, picked up 2 quick fouls and headed to the bench with 13:40 left.
Naturally, the Huskies left it to Super Senior Jamal Bey to break the ice and hit a 3-pointer to get the Huskies on the board with 13:37 left in the game. However, the Huskies were also fortunate that the Cougars had their own issues shooting the ball, which allowed Washington to stay in the game early on.
One of the bigger storylines of the game was the return of Noah Williams who spent his first 3 seasons at Washington State. The crowd and the student section was on Williams from the jump but was able to quiet the crowd with his first 3-point attempt of the game to pull the Huskies within 10-6 early on.
Freshman Koren Johnson, who had been held scoreless in the last 3 games, came in to bring some energy off the bench early on. Johnson scored on his first attempt, hitting an open 3-pointer to give the Huskies their first lead of the game at 11-10. Johnson would score again on a nice floater to give him 5 quick points.
Washington State has the 18th tallest team in the country according to Kenpom but a little thin on the inside without 6’11 Dishon Jackson out for the season. The Huskies struggled to get the ball inside early on but was finally able to find 7’1 Braxton Meah midway through the 1st half. Meah missed his first couple of attempts from close range but was finally able to score on a strong move to finish with a dunk over Adrian Diongue, plus the foul. Meah would score again after a nice dish from Keyon Menifield and was fouled again for a 3 point play to cut the Cougars lead to 20-18.
Cole Bajema would get on the scoreboard with 4:09 left to tie it up at 20 but it was the Cougars the rest of the first half. The Cougars would hit their next 4 shot attempts to finish the half on a 11-2 run in the last 4 minutes.
TJ Bamba (13) and Mouhamed Gueye (11) would combine for 24 points in the first half, while the Huskies two leading scorers for the season in Keion Brooks (0 points) and Cole Bajema (2 points) combined for 1-8 shooting. Freshman Keyon Menifield would start the game on 0-5 shooting from the field as well. Braxton Meah led the Huskies with 7 points but sat the last 3:57 in foul trouble when the Cougars went on a 11-2 run to close out the half.
Huskies Make a Run But Not Enough
Keyon Menifield would apparently get injured on the final play of the 1st half and would not return to the bench to start off the 2nd half. The Huskies would insert Noah Williams into the lineup to start out the half and Williams would respond with one legged runner off the glass and a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 34 to 27 at the under 16 timeout. Williams would score one more time to give him 10 points early in the 2nd half and help get the Huskies back in the game.
Offensive rebounds have been an Achilles heel for the Huskies as well as 2-3 zones in general since the beginning of time and would rear it’s ugly head again tonight. The Cougars would build out a 12-point lead thanks to 12 offensive rebounds in the first 24 minutes of the game.
Keion Brooks was held scoreless in the first 25 minutes of the game but finally got on the board with one of his patented pull up jumpers in the lane. Brooks would score two more field goals to help the Huskies to get back within 3 at 40 to 37. Brooks would have a point-blank opportunity to get the Huskies within 1 but narrowly rimmed out and unfortunately led to a transition 3 for the Cougars’ Justin Powell in the corner.
The Cougars are one of the top 3-point shooters in the conference but were relatively quiet for most of the game until the 10 minute mark. Fellow Transfers Justin Powell and Jabe Mullins would hit three consecutive 3-pointers to help pull the Cougar lead to 10 with 8:11 mark at 47 to 37.
Keyon Menifield, who normally wears #23, would finally make his return to the game late in the 2nd half in a new Jersey (#45), an obvious tribute to Michael Jordan. Menifield would draw a foul but would bust his lip open again, however would stay in the game. The Huskies would go on a quick 5-2 run after a follow up Braxton Meah dunk to bring the score within 49 to 42 late in the game. Washington would have a few opportunities to cut into that lead further but missed a front end one from Noah Williams and a long jumper from Keion Brooks that just rimmed out.
Noah Williams would look to re-aggravate his injury and was forced to leave the game with 4:30 left. Williams would tough it out and return a few minutes later but was still laboring on his right knee.
Keyon Menifield would score his first field goal of the game with 2:36 left in the game and was fouled in the process to cut the Cougar lead to 49 to 45. The Huskies would have a chance to cut it to 2 but PJ Fuller, who is an 85% FT shooter, uncharacteristically missed two free throws. Jamal Bey would hit a pair of free throws to cut it to two points but TJ Bamba would hit two free throws on the other end to pull the lead back out to 4 for the Cougars.
The Huskies would force a stop late with 45 seconds left but would give up their 17th offensive rebound to Mouhamed Gueye, who put it back up for an easy layup and essentially close out the game.
The Cougars would hang on at home to win the 1st leg of the Boeing Apple Cup by the score of 56 to 51 in a game that saw horrendous shooting by both teams.
The Huskies were 11-1 going into the game when holding opponents under 70 points and was able to hold the Cougars to only 56 points, however the Offense could never get it going and was barely able to cover 50 points. Surprisingly, the Huskies would out shoot the Cougars with 35% compared to only 29% shooting from the Cougars but it was the offensive rebounding that would seal the Huskies fate, allowing 17 offensive boards.
Noah Williams would lead the Huskies in scoring in his return with 12 points but it was his former WSU roommate in TJ Bamba that would lead all scorers and come away with the victory in round 1 of the Apple Cup.
Keion Brooks, who had scored 20+ points in 5 of the last 6 games, only scored 8 points on 4-16 shooting. Tough game for the leading scorer to have a cold shooting night and didn’t help that the Huskies 2nd and 3rd leading scorers in Cole Bajema and Keyon Menifield combined for 6 points on 2-14 shooting.
Braxton Meah would have an impact on the game with 11 points, 10 rebounds and played 34 minutes but would fail to block a shot. The Huskies lead the Pac 12 in blocked shots (6+ bpg) but failed to block a shot in the game for the 1st time all season.
The Huskies fall to .500 for the first time all season and now sit at 13-13 (5-10) with 5 games to go. The Huskies next face the Oregon Ducks at home next Wednesday at 8 pm.