A trip to western Texas both started and ended ominiously for the Washington State basketball team.
The Cougars missed their initial flight to El Paso on Friday because of an accident on U.S. Highway 195, were split into two parties and boarded separate airplanes to Texas – both of which landed seven hours later than scheduled.
And down the stretch of Saturday night’s game at UTEP, WSU played lethargic, turning the ball over on a few key possessions and ultimately losing 76-69 to the Miners at the Don Haskins Center. It marks the third consecutive loss for the Cougars (6-3), who opened the year 6-0 and were receiving AP Top 25 votes after a championship run in the Wooden Legacy tournament.
And of those three blemishes, Saturday’s perhaps looks the worst. UTEP (2-6) opened the year 1-5 and coach Tim Floyd stunned the college basketball world when he abruptly resigned after a loss to Lamar University less than two weeks ago. Assistant Phil Johnson has been coaching the Miners on an interim basis since Floyd’s exit.
Viont’e Daniels was WSU’s scoring leader with 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting downtown and Robert Franks extended his double-digit scoring streak to seven games with 14 points on 5-of-10 from the field. Drick Bernstine scored a season-high 13 points and Kwinton Hinson chipped in 10 more, but it was a silent night from point guard Malachi Flynn, who scored just three points on 1-of-8 shooting.
Flynn didn’t need a big scoring night to give the Cougars a chance, but the sophomore committed turnovers on consecutive trips down the floor when it was still a two-possession game. That series could’ve been fatal for WSU with under three minutes to play, but Hinson slipped an inside pass to Bernstine for a layup the next time down.
WSU collected the rebound from a missed UTEP 3-pointer and Franks took a contested shot from beyond the arc that could’ve tied it up, but the ball clanked off the back iron and the Miners got the board. UTEP proceeded to make all six free throws to seal its second straight win.
The Miners were led by Keith Frazier, who scored 21 points on five made 3-pointers. UTEP also got double-digit scoring from Omega Harris (18 points), Paul Thomas (11) and Evan Gilyard (10).
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