PULLMAN, Wash. — Friday night’s contest between the visiting Bethune-Cookman Wildcats and the host Washington Cougars marks the end of non-conference play for both programs.
With the way both teams have been playing as of late, a win would do wonders as conference is set to begin following the Christmas break.
For Bethune-Cookman, Friday night marks their final game of the 2017 calendar year. They open up MEAC play on January 3rd against the South Carolina State Bulldogs at home in Daytona Beach, FL. As for the Cougars, they head on the road to face the UCLA Bruins on December 29th.
The road gets considerably tougher for both teams, as conference play is always full of surprises. Bethune-Cookman will look to close out their four game road swing with a win over Washington State, while the Cougars will look to bounce back from a loss in their last outing.
Here’s what you need to know in advance of Friday night’s tilt in Pullman, WA between the Cougars and Wildcats.
Playing on the road hasn’t been too kind to the Wildcats so far this season. Bethune-Cookman comes into Friday with a 5-8 record overall, and they are 1-7 away from the historic Moore Gymnasium in Daytona Beach, FL. They have lost the first three games on their current four game road trip, and have just one win over their past six outings.
Regardless of the recent results, the Wildcats remain optimistic with each passing game. Friday could very well give the team the big win that they’ve been longing for this season. After an eventful trip out to the West Coast from Atlanta, a win over a sliding Washington State team would make the trip worthwhile for Bethune-Cookman.
Junior forward Shawntrez Davis has been a star in his first season with the Wildcats. He is the team’s top rebounder, averaging 8.7 rebounds per game to go along with his 13.6 points. Davis has put together seven double-doubles this season. Over the past four games, he has alternated 19-point, 10-rebound performances with four point, five rebound ones. If the current trend is to keep up, Davis will be in line for his eighth double-double against the Cougars.
On the back end, the trio of Brandon Tabb, Isaiah Bailey, and Malik Maitland have been impressive despite the losses. Maitland has become a star point guard for the Wildcats, and he constantly uses his speed and court vision to get the Wildcats in transition on a consistent basis. Look for the Wildcats to get out and run early against Washington State.
As for the Cougars, what started out as an impressive season has seen them come back to reality in a hurry. Washington State started the season with a perfect 6-0 record, and they won the Wooden Legacy event in Anaheim and Stockton, CA. Wins over the likes of the Saint Mary’s Gaels and the San Diego State Aztecs highlighted their hot start to the season.
However, since their six game streak to start the year, the Cougars have just one win over their past five games, and come into Friday nigh with a 7-4 record overall. Losses to the UC Davis Aggies, UTEP Miners, and most recently the Kansas State Wildcats, have derailed what looked to be an upstart year in Pullman.
Leading the way has been sophomore guard Malachi Flynn, who is capable of stuffing the stat sheet on any given night. He is averaging 16.1 points, 2.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.0 steals per game in his second season with the Cougars, while shooting 41.1% from the field and 80.6% from the free throw line. Flynn posted 23 points against Kansas State in the Cougars’ last outing, a 68-65 loss at home. It was the third time this season that Flynn has scored more than 20 points.
Flynn had two such performances all of last season.
Junior forward Robert Franks has enjoyed a breakout season in 2017-18, posting a team-high 17.2 points per game to go along with 6.8 rebounds. Fellow forward, graduate transfer Drick Bernstine, is averaging a team-high 6.9 rebounds per game in 10 contests this season, while also adding 6.8 points. The duo have done their best to make up for the loss of Josh Hawkinson in the front court.
Players to Watch
Bethune-Cookman – Brandon Tabb
After missing the win over the Cal Poly Mustangs and the loss against the South Florida Bulls to open the four-game road swing for the Wildcats, Brandon Tabb has been used sparingly in the last two games. He has logged 19 and 20 minutes in the past two games, but is still averaging 12.5 points per game over the stretch. As he gets back into his groove, Tabb’s minutes and production will surely increase. Tabb still leads the Wildcats in scoring, averaging 18.3 points per game. He is also shooting 94.7% from the free throw line for the season. A big game from Tabb could spurn an upset win in favour of the Wildcats.
Washington State – Malachi Flynn
Sophomore Malachi Flynn is a star in the making for the Cougars in the Pac-12. After averaging 9.7 points and 2.9 assists per game as a freshman in 2016-17, Flynn is up to 16.1 points and 4.5 assists per game in 2017-18. He posted 23 points, four rebounds, and four assists against Kansas State last time out, and now has back-to-back double-digit scoring games under his belt. Flynn does a little bit of everything on both ends of the floor for the Cougars, and will need to have another big performance against the Wildcats on Friday. Against an athletic Bethune-Cookman back court, Flynn’s defense will be a big factor in the game for Washington State.
Both Bethune-Cookman and Washington State are in need of a momentum boost before kicking off conference play in their next outings. They’re both trending in the wrong direction, and will look to get a big performance from their stars as they try to enter the Christmas break on a high note.
Washington State has lost some games as of late that they had no business losing. They enter Friday night as 14.5-point favourites over the Wildcats, and in all honesty, the game could go either way. The Cougars are playing at home, and Bethune-Cookman has had to deal with travel issues in coming to Washington in the first place, and who knows if the team is fully recovered, in terms of fatigue.
The Wildcats will keep the game close into the second half, but thanks to the home court advantage, Washington State will pull away in the end for the victory.
Washington State – 90
Bethune-Cookman – 79
– T. Bennett