USA Today Sports/Buchannan

Cougar Hoops Notebook: I Like Ike

BEFORE MOVING on to the Cougars’ 8 p.m. hoops tilt against Oregon State in Spokane on Wednesday, a rewind of the victory over Washington on Sunday produces a conclusion that may surprise: Ike Iroegbu is a multi-dimensional force who makes everyone on the team better.

Following the upset of the Huskies, most commentary focused on the incredible work of Josh Hawkinson and Malachi Flynn and, to a lesser degree, Conor Clifford. But re-watching the game had me admiring Ike.

Think about this:

  • He alternately plays the 1, 2 and 3
  • He guards the best player on the other team
  • He anchors the back line of the zone defense
  • He dives for loose balls
  • He drives to the hole with ferocity, softening up the D and allowing teammates to flourish

Ike is doing what is necessary for his team to be successful.

His hustle and energy are setting  the tone for the Cougs, who bring an 8-5/1-0 mark into Spokane against the 4-11/0-2 Beavers.

Iroegbu’s stat line against the Dawgs was workmanlike: 8 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in 35 minutes. But that only tells a fraction of what he brings to the crimson side each night.

I know some Coug fans were upset with his six turnovers against the Dawgs. Of course you don’t want to see a number like that in the box score, but when a guy is being asked to do as much as he is — on both ends of the court and with as much high-octane energy and attitude — it’s not always going to be perfect.

From my viewpoint, the phrase "I Like Ike" is one all Coug fans should be chanting.

Another senior guard is standing out in a crowd these days as well. Charles Callison is quietly putting together a very nice season. His work against the Huskies — 9 points, 5 assists and 2 steals — is indicative of how strong he’s coming on.

The result is that coach Ernie Kent is able to roll out a three-guard line up with Callison, Iroegbu and the freshman revelation, Flynn, that is skilled, fast and heady.

My final takeaway from the UW game was the Cougars’ team chemistry. It’s outstanding. For proof, take a look at the bench when the Cougs play OSU. You’ll see guys jumping around, cheering on teammates. And their choreography during free throws is nothing less than smile inducing.

AS FOR OREGON STATE, THE Beavers have been hit hard with injuries this season and come into the Spokane Arena tomorrow night with just four wins — over Prairie View A&M, UT-San Antonio, Southern Oregon and Kent State.

They opened Pac-12 play last week with home losses to USC (70-63) and UCLA (76-63). Stephen Thompson Jr. averaged 24.5 points in those two games while shooting 44 percent from downtown, while Drew Eubanks averaged 16.5 points and 12 rebounds in the two games.

The Beavers will be without Tres Tinkle @and Cheikh N’Diaye, who have been out indefinitely with injuries. In all, OSU players collectively have missed 31 games this season due to injuries.

The Cougars are favored by 4 1/2. TV coverage will be via the Pac-12 Networks with Guy Habermas and Mary Murphy on the call.

WSU vs. OSU Game Notes:

Wednesday marks the 294th meeting between Washington State and Oregon State — and the 108th consecutive season in which they played, thus making it the eighth-longest continuous rivalry in the nation.

WSU has lost six-straight games against OSU. The Cougars' last win over Oregon State came Jan. 26, 2013 at Corvallis, and their last home win over the Beavs came Dec. 31, 2011 in the Spokane Arena.

For the second-straight season, the Cougars and Beavers will face each other just once. Last season marked the first time since 1917 that WSU and OSU didn't meet at least twice.

Three different Cougars rank in the top five in the Pac-12 in six different categories:  Hawkinson (rebounds per game, defensive rebounds per game, double-doubles, minutes played); Clifford (field goal percentage); and Flynn (3-point field percentage). Hawkinson is also top-20 nationally in three different categories: double-doubles (seventh), defensive rebounds per game (sixth) and rebounds per game (17th).

AFTER THE BEAVS: WSU hosts No. 15/14 Oregon in Pullman on Saturday at 4 p.m. (TV coverage via Pac-12 Networks).

Charles Callison elevates against the Huskies:

USA Today Sports/Buchanan


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