USC is looking to avenge a loss on New Year’s Day and split the season series against Washington State. It has a good chance to do so on Thursday in the Galen Center.
The Trojans have a tough task ahead of them. They have to defend a team that shoots 42.5 percent from 3-point range.
1. Drew Peterson
Peterson is one of the top players in the Pac-12. He leads USC in points, rebounds and assists. He also ranks in the top 20 nationally in blocked shots, steals and 3-point field goals made.
He is a first-team All-Pac-12 pick, and he was a preseason All-American candidate when he was a freshman at Rice. He averaged 11.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game last season for the Owls.
Despite missing the first few games of the season due to an undisclosed injury, Peterson recently resumed practicing and is expected to be good to go for the first round of the NCAA Tournament. His team is preparing to face Oregon State on Saturday, and the 6-9 senior forward will be a major factor in USC’s offense.
A versatile shooter, Peterson is a reliable scorer on the perimeter and in the mid-post area. His quickness in transition and ability to drive into the lane allow him to create space for his teammates. He also has an excellent shooting touch from the free throw line and is a reliable facilitator on the offensive end.
He has played a significant role in USC’s success this year, as he has been the Trojans’ primary scoring option since the start of the season. His performance in the final 10 games of the regular season helped him earn a spot on the Pac-12 All-Tournament team.
His biggest play was the step-back 3 pointer with 52 seconds left that helped put the Trojans up 74-68. It was the highlight of his performance against Washington, and it showed he can be an effective offensive player at the college level. In this matchup against a talented USC team, he will need to slow down their pace, as well as smother their big men on the defensive end, if WSU wants to win this game.
2. Jabe Mullins
Jabe Mullins has been a revelation for usc washington state basketball this season. He has scored 12 points and four rebounds per game in his first three starts. He also has been very consistent from the free-throw line.
He has also been a key part of the team’s defensive success. He is averaging 1.6 steals and 1.7 blocks per game in Pac-12 play.
The Cougars have had a few ups and downs this season, but they have improved every year under coach Kyle Smith. This year, they will look to take it to the next level and possibly make a run at an NCAA Tournament bid.
A big part of that will come from the guard position, where WSU added two immediate-impact transfers from the transfer portal and a high-potential local product. The Cougs signed 6-foot-6, junior-to-be Jabe Mullins from Mount Si High and four-star 7-footer Adrame Diongue from Senegal.
Despite losing two top point guards to the transfer portal, WSU has still managed to stock up on experience and size this offseason. They brought in former prep stars TJ Bamba and Mouhamed Gueye, who opted to return to WSU for their sophomore season, as well as veteran wing Andrej Jakimovski.
The Cougs also add a talented new recruit in the form of high-scoring Central Valley High guard Dylan Darling, who will join the program as a 2022 grad transfer. Darling is a do-it-all, highly athletic guard from the state’s 4A ranks who was crowned Washington Player of the Year last season. With all these pieces in place, the Cougs should have a deep, high-powered lineup for many years to come.
3. DJ Rodman
DJ Rodman has been one of the most popular players in WSU basketball for four years, and he is coming off an excellent year. He has started 23 games, shot the ball better than ever and his turnover rate remains incredibly low. He has also taken a lot of charges, and he is very good at diving for loose balls when he gets the call.
Despite a tough start to his career, Rodman has always found a way to get his game back on track. He has improved his outside shooting and he’s become a force in the Pac-12. He also has gotten better as a rebounder and he is a reliable scorer in the half-court.
In the Cougs’ last game, against Cal, he finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds in 31 minutes during Wednesday’s 69-52 win. He has started in 30 games this season, averaging 9.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 0.7 steals on 31.3 minutes per game.
He has also been an efficient shooter this season, converting 10-of-11 attempts from the charity stripe. His shooting percentage is now a career-high of 61%.
His three-point shooting is a big reason why the Cougars have won five straight and nine of their last 10 games. He hit 4-of-6 3-pointers against Cal and scored 16 points on the road against No. 5 Arizona to snap the Wildcats’ 28-game home winning streak.
4. TJ Bamba
The 6-foot-5 Bamba is the team’s most dominant perimeter defender, and he earned an honorable mention all-conference nod last season. He made a big jump in offense this year to become WSU’s leading scorer. He is a streaky shooter who has improved on his shot selection, and will be an important contributor to the Cougars’ emergence as an offensive threat.
He is a good ball-handler who can tuck the ball inside to get to the basket, and his off-ball movement is impressive. He is a great cutter and relocator who excels in transition. He also knows how to use his body to protect space and is a capable off-ball defender.
His hustle has been a major factor in his success on defense, and that will continue to be the case when he’s playing with better passers this year. His ability to deny the ball-handler a pass, track down a down screen, and play a handoff perfectly is a great asset.
During the early part of the season, Bamba’s shooting was a little off compared to his usual level, but it has improved significantly over the past three games. He has started to take more shots, and he is now hitting 52% of his 3s.
5. Mouhamed Gueye
Mouhamed Gueye is a top 2022 class big man who brings a rare blend of size, mobility, agility and talent. He is a great prospect and will have NBA scouts salivating after watching him play for Prolific Prep this season.
He has the potential to be a star in the Pac-12 and should be a consistent double-double threat for fantasy managers this year. He is averaging 14.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists on 32.3 minutes per game.
His ability to bring the ball up the floor, while also making plays off of the bounce, has scouts excited about his potential as a future NBA player. He was a standout in the high school ranks, and he has continued to develop since joining the WSU program last year.
The 6-foot-11 sophomore has started all 26 games this season, averaging 13.8 points and 8.5 rebounds on 31.8 minutes. His performance against Washington State on Saturday bolstered his case to remain the starter moving forward.
During Wednesday’s 81-71 win over Northern Kentucky, Gueye posted his third double-double of the season. He closed with 14 points (6-14 FG, 1-2 3Pt), 13 rebounds and two blocks in 35 minutes.
His emergence has led the Cougars to a three-game winning streak, which has been key in their recent success, as they are 10-13 overall and 5-7 in the Pac-12. They will look to keep their momentum going when they travel to face the USC Trojans on Thursday night at Galen Center in Los Angeles.