PULLMAN – Washington State outdid the normal Senior Day conventions to send off its four departing players before their final home game, which was a gratifying 79-71 win over Washington to complete the program’s first sweep of its rival since the 2010-11 season.
There was the typical walk to center court with family members and flowers. There was the requisite video montage showing highlights from the careers of Charles Callison, Conor Clifford, Ike Iroegbu and Josh Hawkinson.
There was also Hawkinson’s sister, Carlyn Hawkinson, singing the national anthem. Hawkinson’s dad, Nels Hawkinson, even danced in the middle of the Cougars’ pregame huddle.
But WSU’s four seniors had to wait until the end of the game for the moments they will really remember.
The Cougars closed the game on a 15-7 run, which gave them enough cushion for coach Ernie Kent to sub out his seniors to standing ovations. Iroegbu kissed his fingers and touched the floor on his way off, while Hawkinson dropped to the court and kissed the WSU logo.
“I wanted to kiss the floor, but I didn’t want to take too much time and they call a technical (foul),” Iroegbu clarified.
After the game was over, Kent called the team back on the court and grabbed a microphone to say a few words about Hawkinson and Iroegbu, the team’s two four-year seniors.
“What these two guys have been through every day for three straight years,” Kent said to the crowd. “They’ve never given me anything less than 100 percent every day in practice. They’re excellent for our program and we’ve appreciated them so much. This program will be built on the backs of those two guys, and those two seniors.”
Then, Kent handed over the moment to those two seniors.
“I just want to thank you all for the last four years, the best years of my life,” Iroegbu said. “I appreciate all of you. Go Cougs.”
Hawkinson thanked the crowd and his coaches for believing in him. He will finish as WSU’s all-time leader in double-doubles, and said he appreciates WSU for giving him a place to thrive despite not being a coveted recruit.
WSU (13-15, 6-10 Pac-12) entered last week having not swept a Pac-12 opponent in five years. Their last two games, wins over Arizona State and UW, give them two sweeps this season.
Fittingly, WSU’s seniors, all of whom start regularly, did the heavy lifting. They scored all but four of WSU’s 31 points in the first half, and all 11 points in a key second-half run that saw a 64-60 deficit turn into a seven-point lead.
All four seniors finished in double figures. Hawkinson led all players with 22 points, along with seven rebounds. Callison had 18 points, five steals and five rebounds, while Iroegbu and Clifford had 15 points and 12 points, respectively.
But the game’s biggest moment belonged to a freshman, the same one who hit two daggers to beat the Huskies in Seattle during both teams’ conference opener.
UW’s Malik Dime made a layup to cut WSU’s lead to 71-68 with 1:06 left in the game. Malachi Flynn, a freshman point guard from Bellarmine High in Tacoma, ran the shot clock almost all the way down, then buried a deep jumper to put the Cougars up five with 40 seconds left, forcing the Huskies to foul the rest of the way.
“He’s clutch man,” Iroegbu said. “I guess it’s something with Seattle guys and the Huskies. When they come to WSU, they want to prove themselves. He’s going to be a big player for this program.”
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