No. 22 Washington State faces Stanford, aims to continue winning ways

Mar 7, 2024; Pullman, Washington, USA; Washington Huskies guard Koren Johnson (0) celebrates after a game against the Washington State Cougars at Friel Court at Beasley Coliseum. Washington Huskies won 74-68. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

LAS VEGAS — No. 22-ranked Washington State will look to take down Stanford in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament on Thursday night in a bid to continue its “surreal” season.

The 10th-seeded Cardinal (14-17) advanced to Thursday’s game with an 87-76 win in overtime vs. rival Cal on Wednesday night in an opening-round game.

The second-seeded Cougars (23-8) are about to experience their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2007-08.

Washington State’s Kyle Smith was selected the Pac-12’s coach of the year, guard Myles Rice was chosen the conference’s freshman of the year, and post player Isaac Jones made the All-Pac-12 first team.

“Surreal,” Smith said in a press conference this week when asked to describe the Cougars’ accomplishments this season.

“I’ve got a mantra this year, and it must be when you have pretty good players — it’s in God’s hands. Just let go. As a coach you want to control everything, but these guys are going to work their way through it, and they have. And that’s kept me loose.”

Washington State forward Andrej Jakimovski is questionable to play Thursday because of a shoulder injury that affected his play in his team’s 74-68 loss at home against Washington on March 7.

Jakimovski had two points on 1-of-8 shooting from the field in 30 minutes.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Smith said. “He practiced (earlier this week) and looked fine, shot the ball, so I think it’s on the mend. What hurt was on the first play of the game, he helped on a roller, and it was kind of a stinger.

“By all accounts, he’ll be OK, but we’ll watch it and do what’s best for him.”

Stanford kept its season alive after trailing by 18 points in the second half of Wednesday’s game against Cal. After the Golden Bears took a 63-45 lead with 14:36 left, Stanford responded with an 18-2 run to cut its deficit to a basket with 3:46 left in regulation.

Spencer Jones recorded 11 of his 20 points after the Cardinal trailed by that 63-45 score.

Maxime Raynaud had five of his team-high 21 points in overtime. The Cardinal made all five of their shots from the field and were 6 of 7 from the free-throw line in overtime.

“We didn’t quit; we didn’t give in,” Stanford coach Jerod Haase said. “This was a gritty and tough win. When our backs were against the wall, we started swinging.”

Washington State, which lost two of its last four games of the regular season after an eight-game winning streak, swept Stanford during the regular season.

The Cougars posted an 89-75 win over the Cardinal 89-75 on Jan. 18 at Palo Alto, Calif., and a 72-59 victory on Feb. 17 at Pullman, Wash.

Rice had a season-high 35 points to go with eight assists in the road win against Stanford. Jaylen Wells, a freshman guard, and Jones each had 15 points in the victory at Washington State.

The Cardinal committed a combined 29 turnovers in the two games vs. the Cougars.

“We have to play a complete game to beat a team like Washington State,” Haase said. “We played well against them in stretches. We have to take better care of the ball.”

–Javier Morales, Field Level Media

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