PULLMAN – If this is the result every time, Washington State coach Ernie Kent might make the phone calls to Robert Franks a permanent part of his pregame routine.
Franks shot the Cougars out of a four-game Pac-12 slump and shot them into the win column Saturday afternoon against Cal, burying a school-record 10 3-pointers while scoring a career-high 34 points in a 78-53 victory over the Golden Bears at Beasley Coliseum.
There were 3,178 on hand to see Franks break a single-game record that had been standing for 24 years – so long, actually, that one of Franks’ WSU mentors was actually the one who set it, years before the junior forward was born. So then perhaps it was apropros that when Franks stepped into his ninth 3-pointer from the left wing, assistant coach Bennie Seltzer, was sitting only a few feet away on the home bench.
“Somebody told me Bennie was one of the people (with the record),” Franks said, “so I wanted to make it and have fun with him.”
Franks pulled the trigger for the final time with 43 seconds left and launched his 10th 3-pointer into a basket that looked more like a crater for the sharp-shooting forward. No. 10 pushed Franks ahead of his assistant coach, Seltzer, who set the record in 1993, later matched by Chris Crosby (1998), Marcus Moore (2002) and Derrick Low (2007).
At 17.3 points per game, Franks has been WSU’s best producer on offense this season, but the Vancouver, Washington, native scored just eight points in Thursday’s loss to Stanford. He wasn’t one of Kent’s five players on the floor in the final, crucial minutes of the game against the Cardinal.
Franks, who also committed six turnovers and four fouls in the loss, had individual meetings with Kent each of the last two days and received an encouraging phone call from his coach hours before arriving at Beasley Coliseum for Saturday’s game.
“I said, ‘Let’s have a special game for you, a bounce-back game,’” Kent said. “So it’s not about lighting a fire, he was just out of whack and these are still college student-athletes. We do our best to parent and coach them, but at times they’re going to show up not as focused. … He’s not going to be like that often.”
Indeed, Franks left that version of himself behind. The Cougars would probably be fine if they never saw it again.
On Saturday, he shot 11-of-17 from the field and 10-of-13 from 3-point range to bag his highest-scoring game in three years with the Cougars. Franks’ previous best was 31 points vs. UC Davis. He pulled down five rebounds, committed only two turnovers and fouled once.
“My emotions were high,” Franks said. “I give a lot of praise to my teammates. They saw I was hot and they kept feeding me and they wanted me to shoot it, so it just felt even better, seeing they wanted me to break the record.”
The Cougars, who’d lost eight of their last 10 games before Saturday, are now tied with Cal at the bottom of the Pac-12 standings. On a night the hosts shot the 3-pointer better than 50 percent (15-of-28) and led by as many as 25 points, the visitors never looked capable of catching up, shooting 4 of 24 from beyond the arc and 21 of 66 from the field.
Turnovers had been a black stain for the Cougars over the last five games. They still loomed on Saturday as WSU committed 15 more, but that total wasn’t nearly as troublesome as the 23 committed vs. UW, or the 22 vs. Stanford.
“I thought we played too carelessly and maybe didn’t anticipate their athleticism in the first half,” Kent said. Of the 15 turnovers, just five came after halftime. “… I thought we did a much better job of taking care of the ball and the big reason for that is not over-dribbling. This is a passing system, not a dribbling system.”
Malachi Flynn finished with 14 points and three assists and Drick Bernstine was effective in 36 minutes on the floor, scoring 10 points to go with nine assists and six rebounds. Kwinton Hinson added seven points and six assists.