PULLMAN – There was only so much Washington State could do to impress against an opponent that would have been outmanned in the best of circumstances on Sunday.
And it was far from the best of circumstances for visiting San Jose State, which suited up just seven players, including a conscript from the football team due to recent suspensions of four primary starters and the season-ending ankle injury to a fifth.
But the Cougars avoided a sloppy performance and were able to meet their own performance expectations in an 82-53 win. It was a needed tuneup for the Cougars, who have just one more game before their conference schedule begins at Stanford on Jan. 2.
“The challenge for us wasn’t so much about San Jose State as it was about us,” said coach Ernie Kent. “This was our Christmas game to each other and we wanted to get out of here feeling good about ourselves and make sure we had a great Christmas so we wanted to play hard in the game (and) we got that accomplished.”
Josh Hawkinson picked up his third consecutive double-double, scoring 25 points and grabbing 13 rebounds to lead all players in both categories.
The game against a depleted SJSU (2-10) team that lacked the depth to keep up with WSU’s preferred style of play was an opportunity for the Cougars (5-6) to experience success in every facet of a game as they continue to jell in Kent’s first year.
Almost every item on Kent’s list of desired improvements was checked off. Kent wanted production from his post players: the Cougars scored 36 points in the paint, and got 12 points from center Jordan Railey, who made 4 of 6 shots, hit all his free throws and swatted four shots, as well. Led by Railey, WSU’s bench players combined to score 34 points.
No matter the opponent or their situation, the Cougars say that the chance for a player like Railey – who has struggled but Kent says needs to contribute for the team to be successful – to succeed on the court will prove valuable.
“This coaching staff has a tremendous amount of confidence in (me),” Railey said. “I think for me personally I think I just needed to have that for myself.”
While Ny Redding has solidified his role as the team’s starting point guard, fellow freshman guard Trevor Dunbar is emerging as a potential contributor and Sunday’s easy game was a chance for him to further acclimate himself.
Dunbar played 30 minutes and scored five points, dished three assists and collected a pair of steals. Most important, he kept the ball moving on offense and indicated an understanding of Kent’s system that will allow the coach to keep scoring guards Ike Iroegbu and DaVonte Lacy in roles off the ball, where they are more comfortable, even when Redding isn’t on the floor.
WSU’s ball movement was the best it has been all season and the Cougars tied their season-high with 18 assists.
So, improvement. Even if it came against an opponent whose players spent most of the game trying to catch their breath.
“When we opened up the season at TCU and UTEP those passing lanes were closing up quick with those athletes out on the floor,” Kent said. “Yes, it is an indication things are getting better but Trevor Dunbar had a lot to do with that.
“He has tremendous vision on the floor and I thought he gave a lot of opportunities to guys to score easy buckets out on the floor when he was in the game,” Kent said.
The game itself was pretty easy, and that’s just fine for a WSU team that was hoping for some confidence for the holidays.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.