New faces aplenty in renewal of Battle of the Palouse rivalry

Nov. 7—PULLMAN — There was a first-day-of-school-type feeling at Beasley Coliseum on Monday as the Washington State men's basketball team dismantled Idaho 84-59 in the renewal of the Battle of the Palouse rivalry.

The Vandals (0-1), who are under the guidance of first-year coach Alex Pribble, trotted out an entirely new starting lineup, while the Cougars (1-0) returned just one starter (Andrej Jakimovski) to their rotation.

With so many new faces on the floor, there were bound to be some mistakes, and there were plenty from both sides. Neither UI nor WSU shot better than 30% from 3-point range in the first half, with the Cougs just barely finishing over that mark for the game (38.6%). Both teams were even worse at the free throw line, going a combined 33-of-54 (61%).

"The reality is that we have a very skilled group," Pribble said. "We got some nerves and some tightness early in the season; these types of things can happen. I think the guys showed nerves a bit, and at the end of the day, we as a staff didn't have them prepared for the physicality that they were going to see from Washington State, and that's what this is about learning as a staff, learning as players, and finding out how to get better."

Despite the early struggles, several players managed to make it through the season opener with flying colors.

Here are a few of them:

Isaac Jones, forward, Washington State

The former Vandal started his first game as a Coug on Monday, and he provided them with exactly what Idaho fans have become accustomed to seeing.

The Spanaway, Wash., native was a force around the glass, finishing with 13 points and nine rebounds.

He didn't take long to leave his mark on the game, as Jakimovski fed him a pass down low that he took over the top of two Vandal defenders for an emphatic dunk to put WSU in front 22-10 with 9:33 remaining in the first half.

Kyson Rose, forward, Idaho

The 6-foot-9 junior was Idaho's second-leading scorer, notching nine points. But it was his defensive work that made him stand out.

The Kennewick, Wash., native was tasked with guarding WSU's two big men, Oscar Cluff and Jones, which was a task in itself.

"He hasn't seen much of that size or much of that length," Pribble said. "And credit goes to Washington State; they did a great job. When you have three big bodies, the physicality can be really tough, so for Kyson, it's all about reps and being tough."

Myles Rice, guard, Washington State

The redshirt freshman was WSU's second-leading scorer with 13 points in 28 minutes of action. He was also efficient in nearly every statistical category. Along with his points, he added four rebounds, three assists and only one turnover.

He scored four of the final six points for WSU.

"He was a little emotional in the locker room afterward, but not much," Washington State men's basketball coach Kyle Smith said. "He was overall very good. I think we'll go as he goes. That's not a huge expectation."

Quinn Denker, guard, Idaho

Expect Denker to be the lifeblood of the Vandals this season.

Denker had a team-high 12 points on 3-of-7 shooting. He also added four rebounds and an assist.

The San Jose, Calif., native also played a team-high 32 minutes and has seemed to fall into the leadership role.

"He has toughness and a presence out there that you can see," Pribble said. "And we need more guys to kind of replicate that."

Oscar Cluff, forward, Washington State

The Cougs' junior forward scored on a buzzer-beater down low off a Joseph Yesufu feed for the 41-28 halftime margin.

The 6-11 big man made the most of his 18 minutes, scoring eight points and grabbing four rebounds.

Kristan Gonzalez, guard, Idaho

Gonzalez, a true freshman out of Chula Vista, Calif., was close to double figures, finishing with eight points in 19 minutes. He also added three rebounds while going 6-for-6 at the free-throw line.

Pixley may be contacted at (208) 848-2290, or on Twitter @TreebTalks.