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No. 21 WSU Dances with Devils in Tempe Saturday

Feb 23, 2024

#21 WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS (21-6, 12-4) at ARIZONA ST. SUN DEVILS (13-14, 7-9)
Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024
5 p.m. PT // 6 p.m. MT // Tempe, Ariz.
Desert Financial Arena  //14,198
Radio Coverage
Cougar Sports Network // KXLY 920AM
Matt Chazanow & Craig Ehlo
Television Coverage
ESPN2
John Schiffen & Corey Williams

OPENING FIVE
1. No. 21 Wazzu faces the Sun Devils, Saturday, Feb. 24, at 6 p.m. MT (5 PT) from Desert Financial Arena with coverage on ESPN2
2. Myles Rice became the only player in Pac-12 history to win 4-consecutive weekly honors, picking up his record-tying seventh Pac-12 FOTW – Rice is a strong candidate for Pac-12 FOTY as the Cougs' second-leading scorer, the League's 2nd-highest scoring freshman, the country's 6th-highest scoring freshman, and the WSU single-game freshman scoring recordholder (35)
3. The Cougars boast one of the longest lineups in the country and use it to hold opponents to just 40.9% shooting, best in the Pac-12 and 39th in D-I, 32.1% from 3-point range, while blocking 5.2 shots per game, second in the Pac-12 and 17th in the country
4. Wazzu is one of the hottest team's in the country, winners of 8-straight League games for the first time since 1946-47 – WSU owns the nation's longest win streak by a P6 program – the Cougars have their best start of the Pac-12 era, reaching 20 wins in the regular season for the first time since 2007-08 and best 27-game start since starting 21-6 that season
5. Jaylen Wells is the hottest shooter in the Conference, scoring a career-high 27 points in the win at No. 4 Arizona, scoring 14.6 ppg in Pac-12 play and in double figures for 14 straight games

SERIES HISTORY WITH ARIZONA STATE
Washington State and Arizona State first met in December 1959 with the Sun Devils holding the all-time advantage 47-41. The teams split the two-game series last season, with both sides winning at home. This marks the only regular season meeting between WSU and ASU this year.

LAST TIME VS ARIZONA STATE
Jakimovski scored a career-high 22 points, Justin Powell added a season-high 20 and Mouhamed Gueye had his second consecutive double-double to help Washington State beat Arizona State 75-58. Powell hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Cougars the lead for good before Jakimovski added three more in a 17-4 spurt. Powell hit six and Jakimovski five of Washington State's 14 3-pointers. WSU outrebounded the Sun Devils 47-33 and used a 16-7 edge on the offensive glass to outscore ASU 10-0 in second-chance points.

CURRENT COUGS VS ARIZONA STATE
WSU Head Coach Kyle Smith is 3-5 against the Sun Devils, having split the last two seasons with ASU. Andrej Jakimovski scored a career-high 22 points last season in the win over the Sun Devils. Jabe Mullins led WSU with 19 points in last season's loss at Tempe. Kymany Houinsou also put significant minutes in both games last year, averaging 16 minutes between the two games against the Sun Devils.

COUGARS VS SUN DEVILS
Washington State and Arizona State meet for the 89th all-time meeting between the programs, with the Sun Devils holding the all-time advantage 47-41. In Tempe, the Cougars are 16-29 all-time and have split the two-game series each of the last two seasons. Saturday night's game marks the only regular season meeting between WSU and ASU this year.

LAST TIME OUT // AT #4 ARIZONA
WSU 77 // ARIZ 74 // FEB. 22, 2024 // TEMPE, ARIZ.

Jaylen Wells hit one of the biggest shots in recent Washington State history to lead the program to a thrilling road victory. Wells had a crucial 4-point play in the final minute and scored 27 points to help No. 21 Washington State beat No. 4 Arizona 77-74 on Thursday night for its eighth straight victory. Washington State won in its first game in the AP Top 25 since the 2007-08 season and leapfrogged the Wildcats for first place in the Pac-12 Conference title race.

SMITH NAMED TO NAISMITH COACH OF THE YEAR WATCH LIST
Kyle Smith was named to the 2024 Naismith Men's College Coach of the Year Late Season Watch List. Smith has guided WSU to its best season in the Pac-12 era and a 20-win regular season for the first time since 2007-08. Coach Smith is the first Cougar men's basketball coach to earn the recognition since Tony Bennett won the 2007 Naismith National Coach of the Year, following a second-place finish in the Pac-10 and an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time since 1993-94.

COUGS GARNER NATIONAL RANKING
Wazzu is ranked No. 21 in the latest AP Poll, marking the program's first national ranking since finishing the 2007-08 season ranked No. 21 after a run to the Sweet 16. WSU tamed the Wildcats, beating No. 4 Arizona for a 2-0 mark in top-25 clashes with U of A. The Cougs swept the home-and-home vs Arizona for the first time since 2009-2010 and won in consecutive seasons at Tucson for the first time since 1982-84.

COUGS ON HISTORIC CURTAIN CALL THROUGH CONFERENCE
Kyle Smith has become associated with the most successful coaches to come through the Palouse, including George Raveling, Kelvin Sampson, and Tony Bennett. The Cougs are 21-6 for the first time since 2007-08, when Wazzu also started 21-6, and went to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. Kyle has guided the Cougs to their best 27-game start in the Pac-12 era with a 12-4 Conference record, best since starting 11-4 during the 2006-07 Pac-10 season. Smith is the only coach in Cougar history to earn two top-10 wins in the same season. WSU won eight straight League games for just the second time in program history (1946-47), and strung together two 7-win streaks against Conference opponents for the first time in WSU history. The Cougars have clinched back-to-back postseason berths for the first time since the Tony Bennett era (2008 and 2009) and are seeking three-straight postseason appearances for just the second time in program history.

TASTE OF THE TITLE
The last time the Cougars held first place in the Conference this late in the season was Feb. 14, 2007, after knocking off Washington for their fifth straight League win. The Cougs sat at 11-3 and in a tie with UCLA at 10-2 for top of the Pac-10, which ended abruptly the following day after a Bruins win. WSU has never won a Pac-12, Pac-10, or Pac-8 Conference title, with the last title as the 1949-50 Pacific Coast North champions.

RICE MAKING FRESHMAN HISTORY
Redshirt-freshman Myles Rice has emerged as a national story, as WSU's leading scorer at 15.9 points per game, the 4-time reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Week, and most-decorated Cougar freshman in program history with seven weekly awards. Rice became the first player in Conference history to win 4-straight weekly awards, and moved into a tie with Evan Mobley for most Pac-12 Freshman of the Week awards in League history. Rice is the Pac-12's second-highest scoring freshman, 6th-highest scoring freshman in the country, and the only freshman in the six major Conferences to lead his team in points, steals (1.65), and assists (3.73). The Columbia, S.C. native has scored in double figures in 12 of the last 13 games, capped by a 25-point game in the win over California. Eight times in Pac-12 play, Rice has distributed at least five assists. Rice is re-writing several WSU freshman records, including his points per game average, which would be second-best all-time by a Coug freshman. Rice is projected to finish in the top-2 in WSU freshman history in steals, steals per game average, assists,  assists per game average, field goals made and attempted, free throw percentage, and 3-point percentage.

JONES SURPASSES 1,000 CAREER POINTS
With 15 points in the Feb. 17 win over Stanford, Jones eclipsed 1,000 career points. Jones, who is ineligible for WSU's career record marks, which require two seasons on the Cougar team, became the first WSU student-athlete since C.J. Elleby to eclipse 1,000 career points, and the 39th in Cougar men's basketball history. Jones reached the milestone in efficient fashion, playing just 57 career games, averaging 17.7 points per game on 61.2% shooting.

JAKIMOVSKI ECLIPSES 500 CAREER REBOUNDS
Four-year veteran Andrej Jakimovski pulled down five rebounds in the win at Arizona, surpassing the 500-career rebounds mark. The North Macedonian became the first Coug since Robert Franks (2015-19) to surpass 500 career rebounds.

TOMMY'S KRYPTONITE KYLE
Kyle Smith is the only head coach to hold Tommy Lloyd's Arizona Wildcats to under 35% field goal shooting on multiple occasions. Arizona has only shot under 35% five times under Lloyd, and WSU is the only school to claim multiple clampdowns against the 'Cats. With the win over then-No. 8 Arizona, WSU claimed wins over a top-10 team in back-to-back seasons since the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons. WSU snapped a 14-game home losing streak to U of A and secured wins over Arizona in consecutive seasons for the first time since the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.

ISAAC IS HIM
In his outing in the win vs Stanford, Jones scored a team-high 15 points, surpassing 1,000 career points and earning Pac-12 Player of the Week. Jones shoots the ball at a .580 clip (158 of 271),  fourth in the Pac-12 and 32nd nationally. Jones has excelled on the glass and at the free throw line. The fifth-year senior is 108 of 148 at the charity stripe, going 56 of 74 over the last 12 games. Jones has also led the Cougars in rebounding 13 times.

COACH KYLE - KING OF THE PNW
Since arriving on the Palouse prior to the 2019-20 season, WSU Head Coach Kyle Smith has dominated his fellow Pac-12 Pacific Northwest opponents. Against Oregon, Oregon State, and Washington, Coach Smith is a combined 20-7 and defeated all three regional rivals in back-to-back-to-back succession on the road for the first time since 1993-94 under Kelvin Sampson. The Cougars swept the Huskies, Ducks, and Beavers in Pullman for two-straight seasons and finished a 3-game PNW roadswing unblemished. Coach Smith is 11-2 at Beasley Coliseum against Conference PNW opponents.

DON'T SQUANDER THE LEAD
Wazzu is 18-0 this year when entering the halftime break with a lead. Mostly recently, the Cougs beat No. 4 Arizona, 77-74, after taking a 1-point lead into intermission. By contrast, WSU is 3-6 this year when trailing or tied at the half, beating Stanford Saturday, Feb. 17, after trailing by one at the break.

NEXT UP // HOME TO HOST USC
WSU returns to Pullman for the final three games of the regular season, hosting Southern California, Thursday, Feb. 29 at 7:30 p.m. at Beasley Coliseum. The Cougs defeated the Trojans in Los Angeles, Jan. 10, 72-64, sparking Wazzu to 10 wins in the last 11 games.

JAK IS BACK
Senior Andrej Jakimovski returned as the Cougars' only 4-year veteran and entered the season fully healthy for the first time since his freshman year. Most recently, Jakimovski surpassed 500 career rebounds, Feb. 22, to become the first Coug since 2019 to eclipse the mark. Jakimovski exploded for a game-high 21 points in the season opener, one shy of his career high. The North Macedonian made his 110th game appearance and started his 70th game against Cal, Feb 15, and has scored in double figures 14 times. Jakimovski dropped a team-high 20 points at Cal, marking his third 20+ point game of the season. Jakimovski has increased his points per game average output by 4.9 ppg since arriving on campus and upped his rebounding average by 1.4 rpg over the same four-year timeframe. Jakimovski has moved into the WSU record books top-10 for career 3-pointers made (171) and 3-pointers attempted (490).

MYLES MIXES IT UP
Myles Rice has shown his skills with the ball, dominating ball control on both the offensive and defensive ends. Rice dished out a career-high eight assists at Stanford and has distributed at least three assists in 13 of his last 15 games, and 5+ assists in 4 of the last 7 games. The standout freshman leads the Cougs with 100 assists (3.70 apg, 5th in Pac-12) and moved into a tie for fourth all-time by a Cougar freshman in season assists. Rice also averages a team-best 1.63 steals per game (44 total, 5th in Pac-12) and top in the Conference for a freshman. Myles is on pace to finish as the second-highest scoring freshman in WSU history, averaging 15.5 ppg with 418 total points (third).

STIFLING DEFENSE
The Cougars' defense has fit Coach Smith's mold of winning with grit, as WSU leads the Pac-12 Conference in field goal percentage defense (.409) and second in the League in blocks per game (5.2). Wazzu's defensive field goal prowess ranks 39th in the country (FG defense). The Cougs limit opponents to 66.8 ppg, second in the Pac-12. In the win over No. 8 Arizona, the Cougs held the Wildcats to their lowest output of the season, following with the lowest output by Utah (57) and its worst 3-point shooting game of the year (18.2%). Most recently WSU clamped down Oregon for their lowest scoring total of the year (56) and just 22.2% from 3-point range.

JAYLEN JOINS THE CLUB
Junior transfer Jaylen Wells has found his form in Conference play, starting the last 12 games and averaging 16.3 ppg as a starter. Most recently, Wells set a career-high with 27 points in the win at Arizona, his second 20-point game of D-I, capping the win with the game-winning four-point play with a corner three and free throw. Wells has enjoyed double-digit performances in 14-straight games, averaging 14.6 points per game in Conference play. The former Division-II star and All-American scored 10 points in a win over Rhode Island to open his WSU account back in November. Since then, Wells has found his form, scoring 10+ points 19 times.

NATIONAL RIM PROTECTORS
WSU has owned the height advantage early into conference play, boasting 140 blocks, 5.2 per game, second in the Pac-12 Conference. The Cougars' average is 17th nationally and the Cougs are ranked No. 27 in the country according to KenPom's effective block percentage. True freshman Rueben Chinyelu leads the Coug with 36 rejections, tied for second most in WSU freshman history and on pace to break the WSU freshman block record. Four Cougs have 20+ blocks each (Chinyelu, Cluff, Houinsou, and Jones). In the Dec. 2 win over Portland State, the Cougs swatted away a season-high 10 shots, marking the first time since March 2022 with 10+ blocks in a single game.

COUGS SWEEP WEEKLY CONFERENCE AWARDS AGAIN
For the second time this season, Isaac Jones and Myles Rice swept the weekly awards from the Pac-12 Conference, marking the first time in League history with same duo sweeping the weekly awards twice in a single season. The Cougs picked up the awards after a sweep of Cal and Stanford at home. The Cougars first earned both the Pac-12 Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week honors, Jan. 15, after winning at USC and beating No. 8 Arizona at home. WSU is the only school with multiple sweeps in the same season.

NEW YEAR SUCCESS
Washington State finished with a 6-2 record in January, marking the first time in 41 years with six Conference wins in the first calendar month. WSU last achieved the feat in 1982-83, wracking up a program-record eight wins in the month, seven Pac-10 victories under the direction of future Hall of Fame Head Coach George Raveling. The Cougars have an unblemished 6-0 record in February and have tallied their best 11-game Conference stretch since the 1944-45 season, finishing the Pacific Coast Conference schedule 13-1.

MYLES SETS WSU FRESHMAN SCORING RECORD
The 7-time Pac-12 Freshman of the Week continued to make a strong case for Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, dropping a WSU freshman single-game record 35 points at Stanford, Jan. 18. Rice scored more points than any freshman in the Pac-12 this year, adding eight assists. Rice became just the third freshman in the last 20 years to put up 35 points with eight assists as a freshman, joining Trae Young and Markelle Fultz. Rice finished 15 of 24 from the floor, including 5 of 10 from downtown in the win on The Farm, adding four steals with just two turnovers. Rice's performance is the highest single-game scoring output by a freshman in high-major basketball this year.

DIFFERENT KINDA COUGS
WSU is built different this season, regularly with two inside men, a different look from Coach Smith's recent Palouse teams, which played with four or all five men outside. The change has results in a higher percentage of shots in the paint, and a 2-point field goal percentage over 52%.

RUEBEN'S BIG BLOCKS
True freshman Rueben Chinyelu has turned heads on the West Coast with a 7'8" wingspan and as one of the best young rim protectors in college basketball. Chinyelu, a native of Nigeria, has 36 blocks, tied for second-most by a Cougar freshman, and is on pace to finish as WSU's all-time freshman block leader at 1.33 blocks per game, currently fourth overall in the Pac-12 Conference. Chinyelu also shoots the ball at an efficient 63.5% from the floor. If Chinyelu continues to average over two field goals per game at a similar clip, he will also finish in the WSU freshman top-3 for field goal percentage. Most recently, Chinyelu passed DeAngelo Casto in single-season freshman rebounding and is eighth in freshman program history.

NOT SO FAST...
Fast break points have been hard to come by for Wazzu's opponents with just 149 transition points allowed all season. Wazzu is quick to get back on defense, outscoring opponents in fast break opportunities 8.4 to 5.5 points in transition per game.

GETTING PAINT TOUCHES
Kyle Smith has made it clear the Cougs thrive when everyone on the team gets paint touches. Wazzu has outscored its opponents 958-770 in the key. Against Stanford, Jan. 22, WSU scored a season-high 58 points in the paint and three times has scored 50+ points in the key. The Cougars are getting just shy of 50% of their scoring from inside the key (35.5 points per game), while holding opponents to an average 28.5 points in the paint per game.

KYLE ECLIPSES 250 VICTORIES
With the Jan. 18 win over Oregon State in Corvallis, WSU Head Coach Kyle Smith earned his 250th Division-I coaching victory, the final 86 coming at Washington State. Smith holds the sixth-most wins in WSU coaching history, and sits eighth in all-time career wins by a WSU coach.

JONES CLAIMS NATIONAL ACCOLADES
Fifth-year senior transfer Isaac Jones has taken a leading role as the Cougars second-leading scorer at 15.7 ppg (ninth in Pac-12) and top rebounder with 7.6 rpg (fourth in Pac-12). In January, the Spanaway, Wash., native recorded back-to-back double-doubles with 26 points and 11 rebounds in a win at Southern California, before scoring 24 points with a season-high 13 rebounds in a win over then-No. 8 Arizona. The performance earned Jones several national player of the week awards, including ESPN, Naismith, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and the Pac-12 Conference honors. Jones recognition as Pac-12 Player of the Week marked the first Cougar honoree since Noah Williams was named the Conference Player of the Week, Feb. 22, 2021. Most recently, Jones surpassed 1,000 career points and has scored in double figures 13 times in Pac-12 play.

CLUFF CLIMBS TO DIVISION-I
Junior college transfer Oscar Cluff has come to life in Conference play. After 16 points in a loss at Colorado, Cluff led the Cougs with a career-high 20 points and matched a career-high with team-best eight rebounds against Oregon State. More recently, the Australian registered his first career double-double with a WSU single-game season high 14 rebounds and 12 points at Stanford, following with 13 points in the win over Utah. Cluff sits 10th in the Pac-12, just behind Jones, with a 54.0 field goal percentage.

KYMANY THE "FRENCH ARMY KNIFE"
Sophomore Kymany Houinsou does a little bit of everything and has taken over additional guard duties with Yesufu out, dishing out 63 assists. At USC, Jan. 10, Houinsou played in his 50th collegiate game. At Washington, Feb. 3, Houinsou sealed the win fo Wazzu with clampdown defense on the final overtime possession. In the Cougars win over California, Feb. 15, Houinsou dished five assists, matching a Conference game career-high, while adding four rebounds and two blocks.

WINNING THE GLASS BATTLE
The Cougars have used their height advantage all season, outrebounding opponents in all but five games. On the defensive glass, WSU holds opponents to an average of 8.1 second-chance points per game. In the game at Utah, Dec. 29, the Cougs grabbed a season-high 51 rebounds, the most in two years. WSU boasts a +5.7 rebounding margin, which ranks 33rd nationally, and scores 12.1 second chance points per game. In the win over Utah, the Cougs outscored the Utes 21-4 on second-chance points, later beating Colorado with a 16-4 advantage in second-chance, outscoring the Buffs 13-0 in the second half.

WATTS WORKS INTO LINEUP
True freshman Isaiah Watts had his best game of his young career against Oregon, Jan. 6. The West Seattle native finished with a career-high 10 points and matched a career high with three rebounds. Watts matched a career-high with 21 minutes played in the win over USC, adding his first-career steal and block in Conference play.

HOMEGROWN ROSTER
The Cougars boast six student-athletes on the 2023-24 roster from the state of Washington, including three former Washington State Players of the Year. Senior Jabe Mullins was named the WIAA 4A Player of the Year in 2020, followed by sophomore Dylan Darling in 2022, and incoming freshman Parker Gerrits last spring.

COUGS INSIDE TOP 30 OF LATEST NCAA EVALUATION TOOL
In the 2023-24 season's NET rankings released by the NCAA, Feb. 22, Washington State checks in at No. 28. The Cougars are the 2nd-highest Pac-12 team, ranked behind national No. 3 Arizona. WSU climbed as high as No. 24 early in nonconference play.

TOP HALF OF THE PAC
The Cougars finished fifth in the Pac-12 last season, earning Kyle Smith's highest finish in four seasons at WSU. For the first time since the 2007-08 season, Wazzu finished with back-to-back winning Conference records. Smith is the only coach in Washington State history to post a winning record in the Pac-12 era. It's the first time WSU finished in the top half of the Pac-10/12 back-to-back years since the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons. In the Pac-X Conference era, WSU has posted 14 winning conference records.

KYLE STARTING WITH SUCCESS
Kyle Smith is the first head coach in Washington State men's basketball history to finish with a .500+ record in his first four seasons on the Palouse. Tony Bennett posted three-consecutive winning seasons before leaving the program.