EUGENE, Ore. – Washington State had already gone into its offensive freeze four days ago when top scorer Robert Franks tweaked his knee in a 32-point loss to Oregon State.
In Corvallis, the Cougars matched their lowest-scoring game of the year with just 62 points. But the concept of putting a basketball in a hoop only became more troublesome and painful for WSU on Sunday when Franks, an 18 point-per-game scorer who can normally find the Cougars a bucket when they need one, was ruled out against the Oregon Ducks.
Franks’ presence may not have necessarily saved WSU at Matthew Knight Arena, but the Cougars certainly missed their junior’s versatility in an 84-57 loss to the Ducks in front of 9,419 fans in Eugene.
WSU (9-15, 1-11) shot just 20 of 51 (39 percent) from the field, made only 7 of 12 free throws and hit a new season low in points scored – three days after doing the same 50 miles north in Corvallis. During their Oregon road swing, the Cougars were outscored 178-119.
“You take 18 points off the floor, that’s huge,” said WSU coach Ernie Kent. “… We missed Robo’s ability to shoot the ball and spread the floor because we had some good looks, but without him out there it clamps down on that scoring a little bit more.”
Malachi Flynn said the team learned “about an hour before the game” that Franks was ruled out, adding “everyone’s got to step up” while also lamenting, “obviously, it’s going to be tough to win without him.”
The Cougars missed countless point-blank looks underneath the rim – each of them more deflating than the last. When Drick Bernstine’s uncontested layup rattled out with 7:19 left in the half, Oregon freshman Troy Brown pulled down the rebound then handed off to point guard Payton Pritchard, who floated a pass to Kenny Wooten for a powerful alley-oop.
All night, sequences like that lifted the Ducks and flattened the Cougars.
“I think they would’ve changed everything around,” forward Davante Cooper said. “Because we weren’t down by a whole bunch of points and all those little plays count at the end of the game when it’s so close like that.”
The Ducks (17-8, 7-5) broke off a 14-0 run to close the game, but it took them nearly 30 minutes to maintain a lead larger than 10 points. WSU trailed by nine when Bernstine converted twice in the paint to make it a two-possession game at 46-41. Then, with 13:20 to play, MiKlye McIntosh buried an open look from beyond the arc and the hosts led by at least nine points for the remainder.
Once again, turnovers played a critical role for the Cougars, who committed only 14 this time but saw those become 25 Oregon points at the other end. Nine of those came in the final 1:14 when a tiresome WSU team fired the ball into the opponent’s hands on three consecutive possessions.
After one of those, Flynn raced down the floor and drew a flagrant one foul when he pulled Brown to the floor on the fastbreak.
“I don’t think it was composure, I think we missed a little bit of confidence there,” Kent said. “When Drick missed those layups there, that probably could’ve made a difference. They got a little bit fatigued and they closed the game out in a big way. They out-athleted us down the stretch.”
Flynn and Cooper were bright spots for the losing team. The sophomore point guard had a team-high 16 points on 5-of-12 shooting and dished out five assists while also collecting three steals. Cooper made his first career start, in place of Franks, and finished with personal bests in points (seven), rebounds (five) and minutes played (32). Viont’e Daniels added 11 on three 3s for WSU.
Pritchard was one of five double-digit scorers for the Ducks, scoring 19 points to go along with 10 assists. Brown also had a double-double, with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
WSU has now lost seven straight games and 15 of its last 18 dating back to the Wooden Legacy.
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