PULLMAN – It’s naïve to think they can make the game look this easy all the time, so the Washington State Cougars made sure to revel in the best moments of their 83-62 nonleague thumping of Idaho State Saturday afternoon at Beasley Coliseum.
In the second half, when the Cougars were really chugging, guard Milan Acquaah picked the ball from Idaho State’s Sam Dowd near halfcourt, then powered home a slam dunk on the other end. Acquaah landed, then pumped his fist against his chest before returning to the other end of the floor.
Later in the period, Acquaah swiped a defensive rebound, pushed the ball down court then whipped a behind-the-back pass to Robert Franks, who collected and rose up to knock down a transition 3. Franks swapped high-fives with a few members of the WSU bench, as others struck a pose, before racing back to play defense.
The Cougars vowed to be warriors at one end of the floor and entertainers on the other. They accomplished both missions and took a lead into the halftime break for the first this season to finish off their three-game season-opening homestand with a 3-0 record.
And Saturday’s victory was the prettiest of the bunch.
“It’s almost like dancing, because you get into a pattern of the defense becomes a feeding frenzy where you get stops, you get rebounds,” WSU coach Ernie Kent said.
Robert Franks wasn’t far off from becoming the second player in school history to record a triple-double and survived foul trouble to finish with a game-high 25 points. He was also the best Cougar on the glass with nine rebounds and facilitated as well as anyone, dishing out eight assists.
Franks, who went to great lengths this summer to fine-tune his skills, came out of the game not long after swishing his fifth 3-pointer with under four minutes to play. Had he pulled down another board and dished off two more assists, he would’ve recorded the first WSU triple-double since 2007.
“He’s come a long way since we saw him in our camp, going between his junior-senior year,” Kent said, “and here was a guy that had 50 more pounds on him and I had my staff telling me, ‘Boy, I don’t know if he can get up and down the floor with that speed game.’
“And here he is today just leading the break in that speed game and that’s a credit to him.”
The Cougars were playing at a brisk pace in the first half and were not unhappy with the 35-31 lead they’d take into the locker room. But they found a new gear for Kent’s tempo offense in the second half and quite literally ran off with the game once Acquaah uncorked his steal-and-slalm sequence with 10:10 to play.
“I think the second half is really when we started getting out,” said point guard Malachi Flynn, who quelled his recent shooting woes in the game and scored 15 points. “Actually when we built our lead, that’s really when we started running, so I think that’s how we need to play the whole game.”
Arinze Chidom scored a career-high 14 points after going an efficient 5-of-8 from the floor. And speaking of efficiency, sophomore junior college transfer Carter Skaggs made two more 3-pointers – his eighth and ninth consecutive – to chip in six points.