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Morning links: Arizona vs. Oregon for the Pac-12 tournament championship

No player had a bigger impact on the Pac-12 conference this season than Oregon's Joseph Young and his biggest moment came on the grandest stage yet of his career.

With the Pac-12 tournament semifinal game against third-seeded Utah tied at 64, Young sent No. 2-seed Oregon to tonight's championship game with an ice-cold pull-up from about 30 feet out with just over a second left on the clock.

Young and the Ducks don't have much time to celebrate, however. They face No. 5 Arizona at 8 p.m. While the Utes will have a chance to recover in the NCAA tournament, UCLA no longer controls its own destiny.

Also, Washington's starting quarterback went on sabbatical yesterday.

Afternoon links: WSU’s season ends in Las Vegas

Washington State's ignominious loss to California on Wednesday was a bitter end for the Cougars.

But it did not dampen coach Ernie Kent's feelings that the program took great strides this season, and that WSU's two best performances against the Golden Bears came courtesy of a pair of sophomores sort of reinforces his point.

We've got plenty of links to pass along from the game, including our game story, the final stats, postgame quotes from Cal, video and transcripts of WSU's final postgame press conference and quotes from some locker room interviews I conducted afterwards.

Percy Allen of the Seattle Times has a game story, as does the Associated Press. A WSU student wrote this story about departing senior DaVonté Lacy, which was published in the Times.

WSU falls to Cal in the Pac-12 Tournament’s first round

Washington State seemed a little sluggish in the Pac-12 tournament's noon game, while California couldn't have looked more refreshed. The result was another early Pac-12 tournament exit for the Cougars, who have now lost their tournament-opening game six consecutive times. Below is the unedited version of my game story, which takes a look at what went wrong today and what the future holds for WSU and its senior players.


By Jacob Thorpe

LAS VEGAS—Throughout his first season as the Washington State men's basketball coach, Ernie Kent has tried to supplement his players' basketball education with off-the-court lessons and support.

He's helped Jordan Railey navigate the challenges of building a family while practically still a kid, himself, and reunited DaVonté Lacy with certain, estranged parental figures in his life.

One of Kent's common themes in his conferences with players is the transcendence of  "generational bondage," the tendency to follow the same mistakes and undesired outcomes of one's predecessors.

It's a lesson the Cougars showed they have yet to learn as they ended their season with an uninspired, 84-59 loss to California in the team's sixth-consecutive Pac-12 tournament-opening defeat.

There is no reason grounded in skill or talent why WSU (13-18, 7-11 Pac-12) could not beat Cal (18-14, 7-11). The Golden Bears only finished one spot higher in the conference than the Cougars, and the teams split two close games during the regular season.

Yet at the neutral site of the MGM Grand Arena, on a court where neither team had ever won, the Cougars appeared unable to compete from the opening tip, giving up a third-chance 3-pointer after easy rebounds twice bounced off Josh Hawkinson – the Pac-12's leading rebounder's – hands.

"I thought there were several opportunities that we could have grabbed rebounds," Kent said. "We were kind or bumbling into each other a little bit so I don't know if that's nerves or whatever."

The first half ended when the Cougars gave up an offensive rebound following Sam Singer's missed free throw and Jabari Bird drained a 3-pointer to give Cal a 37-26 lead.

The second half more uninspired play from the Cougars, who were never able to stop Cal's shooters on the perimeter or post David Kravish inside. Kravish had a career-high 25 points and the Golden Bears made 8 of 12 3-point attempts.

There was even a stretch spanning both halves in which Cal made 14 of 15 shot attempts.

"I think they had more energy and effort and at certain times they wanted it more than us," Lacy said. "They chased down loose balls, dived hard and I think at the end of the day the team that wanted it more won."

All that offense made it impossible for the Cougars to ignite their secondary-break following missed shots and maybe establish some offensive rhythm with some easy buckets.

"I think the key to Washington State, they do a tremendous job of running in transition offensively, "Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said. "I thought we really set the tone there to try to slow those guys down. They get out in transition, it could be a long night for you."

The loss is a sour ending to the season since the Cougars have spent the last couple weeks on the upswing, beating a Colorado team that butchered WSU in Boulder earlier in the year and playing to-the-wire games against UCLA and Utah, the No. 4 and No. 3 teams in the conference, respectively.

And it ends the career of DaVonté Lacy, who was held to single-digits for just the fifth time this season with nine points on Wednesday, but ends his career as the No. 5 scorer in school history with 1,548 points.

Lacy considered transferring during the offseason and playing his senior year for a more nationally prominent program. But he returned to school and, along with fellow seniors Dexter Kernich-Drew and Railey, led the Cougars to as many Pac-12 wins as their previous two seasons combined.

"I told them that this program, and me and my staff, will forever be indebted to what they did for us this year," Kent said. "Because they did a lot behind the scenes by allowing themselves to be transparent and showing their strength of character, because it's outstanding."

The Portsmouth Invitational has already extended an invite to Lacy, who said after the game that he will participate in the annual showcase of college seniors to more than one hundred NBA scouts. Railey has expressed a desire to pursuit a professional career overseas, possibly in France or Italy.

And the returning players will come back next season and try to build on what the seniors built, and once again to break WSU's long habit of promptly losing in the Pac-12 tournament.

A pair of sophomores, Hawkinson and Ike Iroegbu, will surely be the team's best players next season. Hawkinson, earner of the Pac-12's Most Improved Player honor, added to his school-record with his 20th double-double this season, while Iroegbu was the team's leading scorer with 17 points.

"It's nothing but up from here, man," Lacy said. "I think this is probably going to be (Kent's) worst season … It's going to be cool to watch them mature."

WSU locker room interviews

Locker rooms interviews.

DaVonte Lacy:

Question: What was the difference in today's game?
DaVonté Lacy: I think they had more energy and effort and at certain times they wanted it more than us. They chased down loose balls, dived hard and I think at the end of the day the team that wanted it more won.

Q: What was going through your mind at the end of the game?
DL: It was kind of, I gave so much of my body, everything, I gave everything I could to this program and that was just the realization that it's over. There's nothing more I can do for this program. I've just got to continue to do me and continue to rep WSU the best I can and that was just an overwhelming emotion.

Q: What do you think of your decision not to transfer last offseason?
DL: This was one of the best years, enjoyable, the coaching staff and the players. There was not one time when I was like, "I should have left." Every day I was like, "Man, I'm happy I stayed." The coaches made me really, really enjoy it. It's not going to be written yet but in a couple years when they do win the Pac-12 tournament, my name is going to be around there somewhere, as laying the groundwork, I feel like. And Dexter's name and Jordan's name will always be around there as someone that could have left, all three of us could have, and I think we stayed and laid the groundwork for something special.

Q: What about the guys that are coming back?
EK: It's nothing but up from here, man. I think this is probably going to be (Kent's) worst season. I mean we have a sophomore that's averaging a double-double. A sophomore that started all last year, this year and we had a freshman that started half the year. They're so young. A lot of attention went to me and Dexter down the stretch but we wouldn't have been in that position without those guys and they're going to keep developing and keep maturing. It's going to be cool to watch them mature.

Q: What's your expectation for next year?
DL: I just have to play to my ability. I think I can play at the next level, be in the NBA and if I work hard enough it's going to come true, I think. All I need is some space and opportunity and with Portsmouth and the team workouts that are coming up I think I'll have a shot just to prove myself. I think I've been underrated all my life and college hasn't been any different so I've just got to go out and prove myself.

Q: Is it scary to not be a college guy any longer?
DL: I just thought about it, it is. It's scary to think in a couple months I'm not going to keep getting that check so I can pay my rent. I've got to figure out a way to pay my rent. I'm in the real world now, I've got to figure out a way to feed my family, my upcoming family, you know. I've got to figure it out. But I'm not scared, I'm prepared for it. Coach Kent has done a great job preparing us off the court so I'm not fearful of it at all, now I'm sitting there like what's next? That's what's next so I've got to conquer that.

Q: Do you know where you're going to train yet?
DL: Not yet, I've got to meet with some agents and from there I need to figure out what NBA teams want from me and what place can help me develop that.

Q: Have you talked to Klay Thompson or Brock Motum about the process?
DL: I talked to Brock a little bit about it and I actually talked to Abdul Gaddy a couple days ago about it. But I've reached out to who I need to reach out to, I have full trust in coach Kent and my other advisors that they'll put me in the right direction.

Q: What was has Kent helped you off the court?
DL: For me he's been working on my relationships with certain figures in my life, certain parental figures in my life and helping us bond back together. He's been so instrumental in that. He talks about generational bondage and it's a continual pattern and I've already broken it in my first year, college attendee, let alone graduated high school. Only half of my family graduated from high school, speaking of my mom and my dad so I've just to continue to do what I think is right and what I believe in.

Que Johnson:

Question: With a few scorers graduating what can you do this offseason to become someone who can replace them?

Que Johnson: In the offseason we're just going to keep working as a team. We're all still young. We're losing DaVonté, Jordan and Dex but we've still have Ike, me, Josh, so we can makeup for them.

Q: What's the difference in the games where you score well and the ones where you don't?
QJ: Confidence is key. I just have to stay confident in myself rather than shying away.

Q: What went wrong early in the game?
QJ: Cal's a good team. We missed a couple defensive assignments and they capitalized on it.

Brett Boese:

Question: How are you going to try and improve your game this offseason?
Brett Boese: I know for me, I'm just going to try and keep it simple. Maybe work more on coming off ball-screens. Our offense has a lot of stuff coming off ball-screens, like you guys have seen all season. Working on attacking the rim more, things like that. I'm a good free-throw shooter so I'd like to get to the line more but keep it simple, nothing too dramatic or drastic, just continue to get better and work over the summer.

Q: Are there skills you've added to your game this year that can really improve over an offseason?
BB: Yeah, you know you might have a thing but there might not be opportunities in the game, the flow of the game might not allow you to do those types of things. It's something that you don't really think about during the game, you think about it in the offseason and then you feel really confident about it. Once you feel really confident about it, you don't even think about it, you just read and react.

Q: With two of the teams shooters graduating will that keep you outside the arc more?
BB: I hope so, I hope to continue to do what I'm doing. I like, shooting the ball, obviously. As far as just extending my game, be able to put it on the floor a little bit more and make an easy attack to the hoop. We have a lot of shooters on this team, we have a lot of guys that can do a lot of great things. In just the last two or three weeks, I've seen in our scout team practices a lot of guys really growing and making strides toward their games. So, we'll have to see who's  going to step up in the offseason and fill the huge shoes of Jordan and DaVonté and Dexter.

Ike Iroegbu:

Question: How important is it for you to work on your outside shot this offseason?
Ike Iroegbu: It's very important. My shot in general, I'm going to do a lot of shooting this offseason, a lot of spot-up 3s, moving 3s, coming off the bounce. That's one thing I'm really going to focus on is shooting off the bounce. I feel like this last summer I focused really on spotting up, this summer I'm going to really focus on moving and trying to move my game to shooting off the bounce. I know I can drive; I feel like I'm a solid driver. I know that if I can move and shoot off the bounce it will be harder for the defense.

Lacy First-Team All-Conference; Hawkinson Most Improved Player

The Pac-12 announced its All-Conference teams and awards on Monday morning and two Washington State players were recognized.

Senior guard DaVonté Lacy was named First-Team All-Pac-12 and Josh Hawkinson was named the conference's Most Improved Player.

Despite being the only player in the conference to average a double-double, Hawkinson, a sophomore, was only named All-Pac-12 honorable mention.

The conference coaches voted Oregon's Joseph Young  Player of the Year and named UO coach Dana Altman Coach of the Year after the pair guided the Ducks to a No. 2 finish after a preseason ranking of 8th in the Pac-12 media poll. Arizona's Stanley Johnson was named Freshman of the Year while Oregon State guard Gary Payton II was named Defensive Player of the Year, an award his father won for the Beavers in 1987.

Lacy, a native of Tacoma, Washington, became WSU's all-time 3-point leader this season, passing Klay Thompson and finishing the regular-season with 249 3-pointers thus far in his career. 

Lacy is averaging 17.2 points per game, fourth in the conference, and also ranks in the top-five in made free throws (No. 2, 140), 3-pointers made per game (No. 4, 3.3) and he ranks 10th with a free-throw percentage of .773.

Hawkinson was an obvious choice for Most Improved Player – his points per game improvement of 13.5 is the second-most nationally his improvement in rebounds per game – 9.2 more than last season – is greater than that of any other player. Hawkinson is currently tied with Ed Werner for the school's single-season rebounding record of 323 and has set the school single-season record for double-doubles with 19.

Brock Motum became the school's first Most Improved Player award-winner in 2012. That year was also the last time the Cougars placed someone on the conference's First Team until Lacy became the 19th individual WSU player to do so this season. His selection this season marks the 23rd time a player from WSU has earned the honor.

The Pac-12 media release with the full All-Conference teams and awards list is below:

2014-15 Pac-12 Conference Men's Basketball Honors
SAN FRANCISCO – In a vote of the 12 Conference coaches, OREGON senior guard Joseph Young has been named the 2014-15 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Player of the Year; ARIZONA forward Stanley Johnson was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year; OREGON STATE junior guard Gary Payton II has been named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year; WASHINGTON STATE sophomore forward Josh Hawkinson has been named Pac-12 Most Improved Player of the Year; and Dana Altman of OREGON is the John R. Wooden Coach of the Year, Commissioner Larry Scott announced today.
The Complete Conference Honors:
ALL-PAC-12
Name School Pos. Year Ht. Wt. Hometown (Last School)
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Arizona F So. 6-7 215 Chester, Pa. (Chester HS)
Stanley Johnson Arizona F Fr. 6-6 225 Fullerton, Calif. (Mater Dei HS)
DaVonté Lacy Washington State G Sr. 6-4 215 Tacoma, Wash. (Curtis HS)
T.J. McConnell Arizona G Sr. 6-1 195 Pittsburgh, Pa. (Duquesne)
Gary Payton II Oregon State G Jr. 6-3 174 Las Vegas, Nev. (Salt Lake CC)
Norman Powell UCLA G Sr. 6-4 215 San Diego, Calif. (Lincoln HS)
Chasson Randle Stanford G Sr. 6-2 185 Rock Island, Ill. (Rock Island HS)
Tyrone Wallace California G Jr. 6-5 200 Bakersfield, Calif. (Bakersfield HS)
Delon Wright Utah G Sr. 6-5 178 Lawndale, Calif. (City College of San Francisco)
Joseph Young Oregon G Sr. 6-2 185 Houston, Texas (Houston)
SECOND TEAM
Name School Pos. Year Ht. Wt. Hometown (Last School)
Askia Booker Colorado G Sr. 6-2 175 Los Angeles, Calif. (Price HS)
Elgin Cook Oregon F Jr. 6-6 206 Milwaukee, Wis. (Northwest Florida State)
Kevon Looney UCLA F Fr. 6-9 220 Milwaukee, Wis. (Hamilton HS)
Brandon Taylor Utah G Jr. 5-10 165 Los Angeles, Calif. (Pacific Hills HS)
Nigel Williams-Goss Washington G So. 6-3 185 Happy Valley, Ore. (Findlay Prep (Nev.)
Honorable Mention (receiving at least three votes): Bryce Alford (UCLA, So., G), Brandon Ashley (ARIZ, Jr., F), Anthony Brown (STAN, Sr., F), Josh Hawkinson (WSU, So., F), Shaquielle McKissic (ASU, Sr., F), Stefan Nastic (STAN, Sr., C)
ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM
Name School Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown (Last School)
Jordan Bell Oregon F 6-9 190 Long Beach, Calif. (Long Beach Poly HS)
Dillon Brooks Oregon F 6-5 205 Mississauga, Ont. (Findlay Prep)
Tra Holder Arizona State G 6-1 180 Los Angeles, Calif. (Brentwood School)
Stanley Johnson Arizona F 6-6 225 Fullerton, Calif. (Mater Dei HS)
Kevon Looney UCLA F 6-9 220 Milwaukee, Wis. (Hamilton HS)
Jordan McLaughlin USC G 6-1 170 Etiwanda, Calif. (Etiwanda HS)
Jakob Poeltl Utah F 7-0 230 Vienna, Austria (Arkadia Traiskirchen)
ALL-DEFENSIVE TEAM
Name School Pos. Year Ht. Wt. Hometown (Last School)
Jordan Bell Oregon F Fr. 6-9 190 Long Beach, Calif. (Long Beach Poly HS)
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Arizona F So. 6-7 215 Chester, Pa. (Chester HS)
T.J. McConnell Arizona G Sr. 6-1 195 Pittsburgh, Pa. (Duquesne)
Gary Payton II Oregon State G Jr. 6-3 175 Las Vegas, Nev. (Salt Lake CC)
Delon Wright Utah G Sr. 6-5 178 Los Angeles, Calif. (City College of San Francisco)
Honorable Mention (receiving at least three votes): Shaquielle McKissic (ASU, Sr., F), Norman Powell (UCLA, Sr., G), Brandon Taylor (Utah, Jr., G)
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Joseph Young, Oregon
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Stanley Johnson, Arizona
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Gary Payton II, Oregon State
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Josh Hawkinson, Washington State
JOHN R. WOODEN COACH OF THE YEAR: Dana Altman, Oregon
PAC-12 PLAYER OF THE YEAR
YOUNG is Oregon’s fourth Player of the Year, joining the likes of former Duck guards Ron Lee (1975-76), Terrell Brandon 1990-91), and Luke Ridnour (2002-03) with his honor. The senior guard from Houston, Texas, averaged 19.8 points and 3.7 assists through the regular season, leading Oregon to a 23-8 overall record and a 13-5 mark in Pac-12 play that landed the Ducks in a second-place tie. Young also paced the league in free throw percentage (.918) and three-point field goals made per game (2.5). In two seasons at Oregon, Young scored 1,257 points. Only Terrell Brandon scored more during a two-year period with 1,263 points. Combining his two seasons at Houston, Young has scored 2,173 points in his college career. 
PAC-12 FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
JOHNSON makes it back-to-back Freshman of the Year accolades for the Wildcats as he follows last year’s recipient Aaron Gordon. He’s the fourth Wildcat to earn the honor in the last nine years, and the eighth overall since the award’s inception fol-lowing the 1978-79. He averaged a team-leading 13.9 points, which was most among all Pac-12 freshmen, and 6.6 rebounds per game. A finalist for the Tisdale Award, honoring the nation’s top freshman, Johnson also finished the regular season ranked in the top 10 in the Conference in steals per game (fifth, 1.5 spg).
PAC-12 DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
PAYTON II is the third Beaver to be voted Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, joining his father Gary Payton (1986-87) and Seth Tarver (2009-10). After the older Payton won the honor in 1987, the league discontinued the award until it was reinstated in 2008. The junior finished the regular season with a league-leading 92 steals (3.1 spg). His 92 thefts are fifth-most in a single season in Pac-12 history and only trails his father’s school record 100 steals set in 1990. Payton was key in leading the Beavers’ defense, allowing just 58.5 ppg, which ranked second in the Pac-12. 
PAC-12 MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR
HAWKINSON becomes the second Cougar (also, Brock Motum in 2011-12) to receive the Most Improved Player of the Year award. After averaging 1.2 points and 1.6 rebounds per game during his freshman season, Hawkinson exceeded all expectations as he averaged 14.7 points and a league-leading 10.8 rebounds. He grabbed a school single-season record 19 double-doubles, passing Jim McKean’s record of 17 in 1967. He also etched his name in the WSU record book as he grabbed a single-season record-tying 323 rebounds. His 19 double-doubles currently ranks fifth among Division I players.
PAC-12 JOHN R. WOODEN COACH OF THE YEAR
ALTMAN guided Oregon to a tie for a second-place finish in the Pac-12 race after being picked to finish eight by the media in the annual preseason Pac-12 Men’s Basketball poll. Oregon posted a final record of 23-8 overall and 13-5 in Pac-12. Under Altman, the Ducks have posted 20 or more wins in a school-record five consecutive seasons. Altman’s career record stands at 530-298 over his 26 seasons of head coaching, including a 120-55 record in five seasons at Oregon. He now has 18 consecutive winning seasons as a head coach (13 at Creighton, 5 at Oregon). Only six other active coaches in Division I can stake that claim – Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Roy Williams (North Carolina), Bill Self (Kansas), Jim Boeheim (Sy-racuse) and Stew Morrill (Utah State). It’s the second time in three seasons that Altman has been honored as the league’s Coach of the Year, and the fourth time an Oregon coach has earned the distinction – Altman (2015, 2013), Ernie Kent (2002), and Dick Harter (1977).
THE VOTE: Coach of the Year, All-Conference, All-Freshman, All-Defensive teams and Most Improved Player are voted on by
the coaches. Coaches are not permitted to vote for themselves or their own players for the honors.

Looking back at Colorado

Washington State is unlikely to end its season on a winning streak but the Cougars finished their home schedule on a high note.

Like they had in recent games against Washington, UCLA and Utah the Cougars saw a late lead evaporate. Unlike those games, however, they took it back, forcing overtime when DaVonté Lacy's step-back jumper bounced off the rim and into the basket, and never trailing again.

We covered the game with this story in the paper and postgame videos of Ernie Kent and some players.

And here is our day-after post:

— Josh Hawkinson played one of the great halves of college basketball I've seen, and it was because Ike Iroegbu played such a great half. Iroegbu, who I've been told has possibly the highest vertical jump on the team and is certainly its quickest player, jitterbugged his way through Colorado's defense over and over in the first half and when the Buffalos defenders finally caught up to him, he'd already slipped the ball to Hawkinson.

The sophomore connection was automatic and Hawkinson finished almost everything. In fact he missed just 1 of his 10 first-half attempts. The strategy worked throughout the first half, but CU adjusted at halftime and the chess match began.

In the second half Colorado began switching screens to keep the Cougars from driving, and it was a pretty effective strategy. Hawkinson was limited to just one shot attempt in the second half and it came off his own offensive rebound.

The Cougars countered by screening wings in the corners and having them curl around the perimeter for 3-pointers, occasionally having one wing make the initial action while another ran baseline and then followed the first wing off the same screen. A couple times they even had a third guard follow the shooters off the screen.

But WSU only made two second-half 3-pointers and when Que Johnson received a pass at the top of the arc he drove and was called for a charge, drawing the ire of Dexter Kernich-Drew who had flared out to the opposite wing and was wide open for an outside shot. CU's defensive adjustment ended up working and it really affected WSU's guards as Iroegbu made just 1 of 8 second-half attempts and Lacy made only 2 of 8.

— The Cougars finished with seven Pac-12 wins and left a few more on the table by losing leads late in games. In fact, WSU has held moderate or better leads in the second halves of each of the last five games and given them up each time. WSU won two of those games but still struggled to keep their opponents underfoot, letting a 19-point second-half lead dwindle to three points at USC and letting CU retake the lead before forcing overtime and eventually winning.

Kent is taking the optimist's view that the improved Cougars are at least competitive in games that would have been sizable losses earlier in the season and says WSU is learning how to play with a lead.

"The beauty of it is, for us to have this conversation they've done a lot of growing up and a lot of things right to put themselves in position to close the game," Kent said. "And now they're still figuring that out. Remember now, this is all new to this team: the wins, this level of play, enough guys on their A-game, the shooting, the confidence, the close games."

 

Here are some notes from yesterday's game:

— Josh Hawkinson (21 points, 10 rebounds) extended his WSU single-season record with his 19th double-double.

— Ike Iroegbu (18 points, 11 assists) had the first double-double of his career. He also set a career-high for assists.

— Six Cougars scored in double figures for the first time this season.

— DaVonté Lacy scored 17 points and passed Brock Motum for fifth on WSU's all-time scoring list. Lacy has 1,539 career points, 24 points away from Don Collins (1977-80) in fourth place.

Quotes:

Lacy on Colorado's Tre'Shaun Fletcher: "We grew up in the same program and we would battle since I was in 6th grade and he was in 5th. I actually tried to recruit him here and he took a visit. We have a good relationship."

Lacy on his game-tying shot: " I don't know if that 's what (fans will) remember me for but I knew I was going to take it. Coach drew up a play and said that I had enough time to use a ball-screen and we didn't use the ball-screen and I just created."

Iroegbu on he and Hawkinson's big nights: " Coach Kent was … was like, even thought it's senior night we underclassmen have to step up and we can't let the seniors lose their last home game at Beasley. I took that to heart and just made it a point to play well for DaVonte, for Jordan and for Dex. "

Hawkinson on Askia Booker's three-quarter court heave to end regulation: "I honestly thought it was going in. I definitely did not want it to end like that, especially for the seniors. I thought it was good and I'm glad it wasn’t."

Looking back at the Utah game

In the end Washington State couldn't spring the upset over No. 13 Utah, falling late in the game, similar to last week's loss at UCLA.

Unlike that game, when the Bruins simply overpowered the smaller Cougars in the second half, in this contest the Utes – No. 9 in the country in field goal percentage – made a number of difficult shots to pull away in a game that was initially a defensive struggle.

Here is our story from the game, final stats and a postgame video of Ernie Kent speaking to the media about the game.

Also, yesterday, Lia Galdeira scored 34 points to lead the WSU women to a win in their Pac-12 Tournament matchup against Oregon.

— WSU looked like it might be pulling away about seven minutes into the second half, going ahead by eight points and clearly being the more aggressive team. The Cougars got to the free throw line often during that stretch, although they didn't always make their freebies.

But it's not hard to see how Utah got back into the game and eventually took control: The Utes made 8 of 12 3-point attempts in the second half. That onslaught was kind of a mixed bag for the Cougars; WSU's defenders allowed a couple open looks when players lost sight of their men, who were able to run to spots and spot-up for an open shot, but many of Utah's biggest shots were well-contested. DaVonté Lacy and Junior Longrus each had good closeouts only to have the shots go in anyways.

Utah has three regular players that shoot 43 percent or better from behind the arc and they had a good shooting half, there wasn't a lot more the Cougars could do to stop them.

— That said, the Cougars sure would have helped their cause by playing a little smarter. Freshman Ny Redding isn't immune to the freshman wall that seems to be hitting all the first-year players right now – Utah's Jakob Poeltl had zero shots and four fouls in 17 minutes – and played most of the game in a fog.

One turnover came when Redding dribbled out the shot clock well past the 3-point line and it came after the Cougars had the ball out of bound. Other times WSU had a play to make on offense and simply didn't make the pass or cut that would have led to easy points.

Ernie Kent was adamant after the last two games that WSU would have won each of them if they'd made the plays easily available to them and was lamented last night that the Cougars aren't currently riding a three-game win streak that includes wins at UCLA and against a top-15 team.

Some notes from the game:

— Lacy blocked a shot for just the 14th time in his career.

— Lacy has 1,522 career points, just eight points shy of Brock Motum for fifth-place on WSU's all-time scoring list.

— Ike Iroegbu dished out a career-high seven assists for the second consecutive game.

And a couple quotes:

Jordan Railey on only playing three minutes in the second half: "I think my stupid fouls kind of hurt us. I don't think they had any answer for me or josh in the post and I have to play smarter. As far as what they did, I don't think they did anything different."

Kent on the last two weeks: "People continue to ask how this team's going to bounce back I thought we had just a terrific three-game stretch because we've gotten better, particularly defensively."

Ernie Kent Q&A: underclassmen taking the reins

Washington State's seniors have at least three more games to play but the torch passing has already begun, according to Ernie Kent.

Senior Night is Saturday and Kent expects the WSU underclassmen to step up and assume the leadership mantle by making sure DaVonté Lacy, Dexter Kernich-Drew and Jordan Railey win their (maybe) final game at home.

"The seniors have done a terrific job of leading up until this point," said Kent during Wednesday's media availability. "There's a transition phase that's getting ready to take place when seniors play their last game because I put that pressure on the underclassmen. It's their job to make sure the seniors don't lose at home."

Of course, it might not be WSU's last home game. As I wrote this morning, the Cougars could still host a game in the College Basketball Invitational. Kent may have let slip that he agrees today, answering another question about Senior Night by saying that it will be, "maybe the last time you'll play at home."

The full transcript from our interview with Kent is below:

WSU coach Ernie Kent

Q: Is Josh Hawkinson getting back into a rhythm?
EK: Well, what I told all of you earlier on when everybody talked about him not hitting 3s, looking like he's a little fatigued – well, he's only a freshman. He only played two minutes a game last year so he's his freshman season of playing major minutes and every single freshman will hit the wall.

Every freshman in the country hits the wall and at some point in time they have to climb over that wall and get going again and that's exactly what happened to Josh. He's played some major minutes, he's been outstanding, he hit the wall a little bit and a lot of it had to do with the scheduling of the teams that we were up against  and now he's climbing over it again. It is very, very difficult to have 18 double-doubles in a single year.

I don't care if you're a freshman, sophomore, junior or even a senior. That's very tough to do it and he's got that Cougar uniform on and he's doing it right here at Washington State, that's tremendous for our program.

Q: Is Brett Boese's confidence back after hitting a couple 3-pointers at UCLA?
EK: I certainly hope so and confidence is a very fragile thing where a relative can knock you out of whack, a girlfriend can knock you out of whack, reading social media can knock you out of whack and reading what you guys print can knock you out of whack.  And a coach can knock a player out of whack, too. It's such a fragile thing dealing with young people in this day and age and that's why we try to spend as much time as we can reinforcing things in a positive way.

You've never seen me dwell on the negatives too much because there's enough negative in the lives of young people anyhow, we try to take the positive approach with everything we do. I'm hoping he continues to play well, we certainly need his jump shot and, not only that, I thought he played well in the USC and particularly in the UCLA game in his energy and what he brought to the floor defensively.

Q: Are Senior Night games typically sloppy because of the distractions?
EK: Yeah there's two different times of the year: Exhibition games are usually terrible at the start of the year and then Senior Night. It's just because of the emotion. You really have to honor them and some coaches have gone away from honoring before the game and honor them after the game for that reason. I like to do it better before the game.

You have to keep the emotions in check and that's hard to do because you're coming down to the end of senior seasons, it's the last time you'll maybe play at home and you have to go out and play a basketball game afterwards. So it's a little bit of a balancing act but hopefully we'll be able to manage that.

Q: What kind of impact did these seniors make during their one year in your program?
EK: What they've been able to do in a year is, No. 1 buy into the coaching staff, particularly with seniors when you've got a coaching change and they're used to doing things a certain way. They completely bought in and, not that we changed things 360 degrees but there still was a lot of drastic change in the program, they bought into it and that's huge because by them buying into it everyone kind of follows suit with that.

No. 2, their ability to open up, communicate and allow us to have relationships with them was huge because typically with seniors, we did not recruit them, that's very difficult to do. But here are three guys that allowed us to get to know them as people so we could better serve them as coaches. So that was huge and I thought it helped them in terms of their growth and helped our program.

And lastly, just their ability to at times, each one of them had their moment when they carried the team in a ballgame, and certainly in practice, and that was huge because what they basically have done is taught the young guys how to work, how to be responsible. The fact that they're going to graduate on time, the importance of the academic piece and all of that. I'm going to commend them for hanging with us, allowing us to lead them, allowing us to coach them and buying into what we wanted to do.

Q: How important was it to get DaVonté Lacy on board early?
K: Well, DaVonté's a player, he knows. And doing TV games you have a bit of a relationship with those guys already because you have them with the microphone in front of their face. For him, walking in the door when you've got a coach and, not to pat myself on the back or anything, but you've got guys sitting in the NBA and you've won this conference and you've been to two Elite Eights, that's hard to do.

So, your credibility was already there so it wasn't difficult to get them to buy in. It was more or less, "let me show you what you need to do to get to that level." And that buy-in was not difficult at all.

Q: Is Lacy good enough to play professionally?
EK: I certainly think he has the ability to do it. But the NBA, it's all about matchups and how you match up with different teams and what they're looking for. In this day and age, with the majority of players in this conference that have that NBA potential, they're going to have to get to a workout situation, which a lot of those guys will do, then see how they perform and see which team kind of locks in with who they are and what they need.

With the majority of these players it's not going to be about coming out and being a star in the NBA. You're going to be a bench warmer and be a team player so it's very important that you have that mentality to sit at the end of that bench while LeBron is the star – that's his team. So they look at a lot of different things but he certainly has the character, has the game. It's going to be really right team right time in terms of his workouts.

Q: Are there examples off the court that demonstrate his maturity and leadership?
EK: I think again, as I said, how he handled himself on that China trip. That was away from us, that was off the court what they did on that trip and how he became one of the leaders of that group of All-Stars.

And I read where Larry (Krystkowiak) said if he had selected captains that would have been one of his captains. That says a lot about his character to be able to go in that environment, be submissive with his game but have the leadership quality that guys at that level, the All-Stars in the conference, followed him. That says enough right there.

Q: How can his success help with recruiting in western Washington?
EK: I think any senior that leaves a program, your former players become your greatest asset in recruiting. And that's why it was so important to grow the program while they were here, have some success while they're on the floor with this system, style of play, build some relationships.

They leave here feeling good about themselves and what was accomplished this year in terms of the growth of the program because I think any three of those guys, when they go back into their environments later on, I feel very strongly that they would have no qualms about recommending any player and pointing them in this direction because, No. 1 the style of play, No. 2, the academics that you have over here, the college environment, college experience that all of them have had here, the relationships we have with our players and just the feel of the program and where it's going.

I think they would be probably our biggest sales people as they leave out the door. That tells you you've had tremendous success within if you can get players to turn around and sell on their way out the door.

Q: What needs to change to play better against Utah the second time?
EK: We need to a much, much better job defensively and not make as many, what I recall, bonehead mistakes because we had a lot of mistakes in the game. They capitalized on the mistakes and then we did not do a very good job defensively, which our numbers have told us. I feel like against USC, UCLA, we're getting better defensively late in the year. We've made some adjustments we don't need to talk about but I thought for us to have an opportunity to close the gap with either Utah or Colorado, both those teams gave us problems, we've got to play a lot smarter, a lot tougher and a lot better defense.

The smartness is on the offensive end of the floor, the toughness is just the game in general and the defense is obviously on that end of the floor.

Q: How do you prevent a similar carryover from Utah to Colorado game as last time if the Utah game goes the same way?
EK: It's just different. You're at home, you're not in the altitude, you're not sitting in hotels for a long time. It's a different environment coming home and closing it out in the seniors' last game. The piece that you guys have yet to talk about – in my programs in the past the seniors have done a terrific job of leading up until this point. There's a transition phase that's getting ready to take place when seniors play their last game because I put that pressure on the underclassmen. It's their job to make sure the seniors don't lose at home.

That's the transition, the seniors have led up until this point. Now the underclassmen get to take the responsibility that they're going to have anyhow as they head into the spring that they're going to become the leaders of this program and where it goes next year so this is huge, these games, in terms of how we handle the emotions, how we perform, how we compete, how we handle the success and hopefully send our seniors out on the right way.

It's just as important for the underclassmen to get ready to lead this program as we head into the future.

Q: Have any underclassmen stepped up already?
EK: I don't know if it's any particular person, that's what you're cultivating right now because that passing of the gauntlet is coming quick and they need to know that. When I look at this team and I talk about Ike and Que and Junior, obviously Brett, those guys have been through the fire. This becomes their team and more so than it becomes a freshman's team although Ny Redding has been good this year and very vocal, and his energy has really helped us a lot in practice. It's the returning players that have played the big minutes, hit the big shots, that have been in the games. It's their turn, their time to lead and that all starts whenever your season ends but for me that starts right now with your seniors and sending them out the right way and eventually they lead us into the spring workouts, summer workouts and all those things.

DaVonté Lacy impersonates Ernie Kent

The Pac-12 Networks asked some players to impersonate their head coaches yesterday. It clearly wasn't the first time for DaVonté Lacy.

  

Looking back at Oregon

Maybe you changed the channel pretty quickly yesterday. Or maybe you're the type that couldn't tear yourself away from the wreckage. Either way, you'll probably want to read this post with your eyes closed.

We'll start off by passing along our story from the game.

I also think it's worth mentioning that whether it's football or basketball, I'm always astounded at how much better the game day experience is at Oregon than any other Pac-12 school. Whether it's the pregame videos, the energy of support staff, the music or just the general atmosphere, it is markedly more fun to attend a game at UO than any other Pac-12 school and the other traveling sports reporters for the most part agree.

It's easy to make the Nike connection and the Dcuks obviously spend a lot of money on marketing. But considering how well it has worked for them, maybe the other schools should follow their lead?

This isn't meant as a knock on WSU; the Cougars are better than most in both sports and WSU's pregame videos have been particularly good this year.

Even though the Ducks don't usually come close to selling out Matthew Knight Arena this season the school finds a way to keep the energy high by routinely engaging the students. Granted, it helps it have a top-level football team to keep the student body interested in sports.

But considering how much the schools all copy each other with their Flex-cams and Oblivi-cams, you'd think the Pac-12 marketing directors would sit in their suites at a football game and decide to simply do whatever the Ducks do.

 

— In many respects, the game was similar to Washington State's loss at Colorado earlier this year. During the second game of a road trip the Cougars couldn't buy a bucket and their opponent couldn't miss.

But unlike that game, in which WSU seemed to be taking good shots and missing while the Buffalos made tough jumpers, at UO the Cougars settled for bad shots early in the shot clock while the Ducks attacked the rim. The Ducks also shot well from outside, in rhythm.

The one exception seemed to be Dexter Kernich-Drew, a spot-up shooter who used fakes to get UO defenders in the air before driving. He also hit some outside shots in the flow of the game and led the team with 18 points. Josh Hawkinson also took good shots, hitting some midrange jumpers and scoring in his usual manner. But early in the game the Cougars tried too to hit big shots once it was apparent that the Ducks were having success offensively and it cost them.

— The Cougars tried a lot defensively yesterday and none of it was particularly effective. Kent has discussed the affect that taking on such a big rebounding role has had on Josh Hawkinson's shooting (he still hasn't made a 3-pointer in a conference game after being a pretty deadly outside shooter early in the year) but the grind may be starting to take a toll on the post defensively, as well.

For the most part Hawkinson is a good defender with solid instincts, good timing and the sense to know when to stay on the ground and when to contest a shot. He's not especially laterally quick but plays the angles well enough to make up for it.

But in Oregon State's Jarmal Reid and UO's Dwayne Benjamin he faced athletic forwards in consecutive games who are both comfortable facing the basket from 15-feet out or further. Both forwards were able to drive against Hawkinson and Benjamin is also a deadly shooter, meaning Hawkinson had to close out harder and get further away from the basket.

After the game Hawkinson said, "I think that one thing specifically for me that I need to work on is lateral quickness and being able to guard guys who can drive me."

Not many teams have forwards as athletic as those two – although Arizona certainly will this week – but if Hawkinson doesn't get his legs back it may be something that other teams continue to exploit.

Here are some notes from last night:

— DaVonte Lacy has 1,412 career points after scoring 13 last night. He moved past Brian Quinnett and Jim McKean and is now No. 9 all-time at WSU.

— Hawkinson had 14 points, 11 rebounds and now has 15 double-doubles this year, which ties him for third most in a single season at WSU.

— Hawkinson has hit 24 consecutive free throws, a streak that ties him with Derrick Low and Klay Thompson for third-most consecutive free throws by a Cougar since the 1989-90 season.

And a couple quotes from last night:

Kernich-Drew on wanting to win in Kent's return to Oregon: " There was a little bit more emotion to the game, because it’s his first time back coaching here. He didn’t really want us to focus on that, he just wanted us to go out there and play hard, which didn’t happen. It was a little bit of a disappointment not to get this ‘W’ for him, but we’ll look forward to next week and getting two wins.

Kernich-Drew on the game: " It was pretty demoralizing after we got down by 20 and it was almost 30, I think. It was just tough to come back, that crowd was really into it."

Hawkinson on fatigue: "We’re almost to the end of the season, so everyone’s going to be a little fatigued but I don’t think that’s an excuse and coach has done a good job of getting us in recovery in the cold tub and things like that, so I don’t think that should be an excuse."

Kent on what went wrong: "Everybody shot it, it seemed like. We tried man, we tried zone, we tried double-teaming Young and he got into that groove, too. And obviously we didn't play it very well. We didn't shoot it very well. When we don't shoot it we're not a very good basketball team, especially playing against a team of this caliber in their building the way they played."

Kent on keeping the team's confidence up: "I never worry about that because I've said this all before, you never get too up, you never get too down, you just get ready for the next one. The games come too fast, there is still a lot of basketball for this team to play and it really is about where their growth is going to be finishing up the season and everything so they have more growth in them. I don't worry about being too hard on anybody. It's about moving forward, getting better, bringing them back to the drawing board again and getting back out there and ready to play again."

Looking back at Oregon State

Washington State's fast start wasn't enough to carry the Cougars to the finish line at Oregon State.

Our game story can be read here and our day-after post is below.

— The Cougars had a good offensive game plan to attack OSU's zone inside this time. The Cougars couldn't shoot at all in the first game against OSU, a 62-47 home loss. This time around WSU shot 15 of 30 on 2-pointers and only one of those baskets came on a fast break.

The guards were better able to penetrate and when they did the big men had success diving from the high post and forward Josh Hawkinson did a great job finding cutters, finishing with five assists.
Really, that should have been enough to win the game if the Cougars hadn't simultaneously had one of their worst outside shooting games, hitting just 4 of 21 from 3. If even one or two more of those outside shots fall, WSU comes away with a big road win.

— You've got to think Ernie Kent liked what he got out of Junior Longrus yesterday. The junior forward had eight rebounds in just 15 minutes and four of those came on offense.

Longrus probably isn't going to suddenly become a scoring threat for the Cougars but he was one of WSU's most active players last year and yesterday we saw that on the boards and on defense, where from my vantage point he seemed to do the best job of playing help defense down low, particularly on Jarmal Reid.

Stats and notes from the game:

— The Cougars made 8 of their first 9 free throws but went 0-6 from the line in the second half.

— DaVonté Lacy hit a 3-pointer on the first possession of the game, which gives him 230 for his career, which is tied for fourth all-time at WSU.

— But Lacy only scored five points, ending a streak of double-figure scoring games at eight.

— Josh Hawkinson led the Cougars with 16 points and 10 rebounds, giving him his 14th double-double of the year.

— WSU suffered its first loss of the season when leading at halftime. The Cougars are now 8-1 when entering the second half with a lead.

Here are some quotes from after the game:

Hawkinson on WSU's success rebounding on offense: "They're a slow-paced team and you know they're not going to push the ball up the court so we concentrate more people to go attack the offensive boards, which gave us a lot more opportunities."

Lacy on Jarmal Reid: "Jarmal played really well today, 20 points. He was a beast inside. I think that's where the mismatch was and they exploited it."

Kent on WSU's hot start: "It was the best defense we've played in the first 15 minutes of a game and then all of a sudden we stopped paying attention to detail, they gained the momentum of the game and made it a possession-by-possession game."

Looking back at California

Last night at Beasley a fan won $800 for making a half-court shot. It was one of seven 3-point shots made by someone wearing crimson all night.

Here is our story from Washington State's 76-67 loss to California last night and below is our usual day-after post.

— It's not that six 3-pointers is an untenably low number, but the Cougars needed 23 attempts to get there. The team has cooled off after some hot shooting early in Pac-12 play and it's unclear if and when the shots will start to fall again from the outside.

Granted, the poor shooting of late began when the Cougars started playing some of the Pac-12's best defensive teams – nobody is shooting well against Colorado, Oregon State or Utah.  Cal actually has the conference's No. 2 3-point field goal percentage defense, although there are reasons to believe that is not a predictive statistic.

But from the beginning of this season coach Ernie Kent has made the point that this team's shooting ability is dictated by its confidence. Kent came in and gave everybody a green light to shoot, his players shot well early in the New Year and so their confidence went up.

Now the team has lost its last five games, including one at home to a team it was able to beat on the road, and it's hard to think that all those poor shooting nights against good defensive teams won't affect their confidence going forward. Stanford hasn't been a great defensive team this year so Saturday night's game should provide some insight into whether or not the Cougars can get back in an offensive groove.

— Cal didn't get much out of its posts yesterday with David Kravish in foul trouble for most of the game. There were times when the Golden Bears went with a "small" lineup, but even when they did there was plenty of size on the floor. It was hard to distinguish who was a guard at times because Jabari Bird is 6-foot-6 and Tyrone Wallace is 6-foot-5. Those two guys combined for 15 rebounds and their size advantage outside helped to offset WSU's size advantage down low.

WSU's guards aren't as big but Kent hopes that they can at least help pick up some of the rebounding pressure that is wearing down Josh Hawkinson. The sophomore forward played 37 minutes last night and collected 12 rebounds. It's great for WSU to have the Pac-12's leading rebounder, but it isn't great for them to have Hawkinson working that hard.

Kent has said that he would like WSU's guards with some size such as DaVonte Lacy and Que Johnson to work harder on the glass so that Hawkinson doesn't have to.

"(Hawkinson is) logging a lot of minutes on that body that he's not used to logging last year," Kent said after the game. "He had an opportunity for great looks tonight because their bigs couldn't come out and play and those shots he's hitting early on, he's not hitting now. But we're going to hang in there with him."

Here are some stats of note from last night:

— Lacy has 1,369 career points after scoring 24 last night. His performance moved him past Joe Wallace to No. 11 on WSU's all-time scoring list.

— Hawkinson has 12 double-doubles this season after scoring 18 points and collecting 12 boards last night. One more double double and he'll enter WSU's top ten for a season.

— Lacy fouled out for the first time this season.

Some quotes from last night:

Hawkinson on a questionable call against Brett Boese late in the game: "I just saw him attacking and he was driving the paint and I timed it and blocked it off the glass. I didn’t see Brett give a body or anything like that. It’s a tough call but you’ve got to live with the decision the referee makes."

Lacy on the game plan to attack Cal inside: "That was our game plan going in but just like any other game, if anything’s not working, we try to make adjustments and I think we tried to do that once we saw what kind of night it was going to be so we tried to make adjustments but they’re a good team."

Kent on letting Cal get out to a good start: "When you're playing a team that's struggled one of the worst things you can do is give them an opportunity to find themselves on offense because now all their struggles turn into positive energy and they tend to shoot it, have great confidence and get rolling on you."

Looking back at Utah

We dissect Washington State's 86-64 loss to Utah in our usual day-after post.

Perhaps the Cougars are on a bit of a slump. Perhaps, as Vince Grippi suggested, they just don't play well against former Montana coaches. Or maybe something about playing the Pac-12's top two scoring defenses threw WSU for a loop.

Whatever it was, the Cougars lost again last night and Utah, the nation's No. 12 team playing in its own house, never seemed very threatened.

— Unlike the Oregon State game, the Cougars were actually able to play at their own pace and forced the Utes to run with them for the games first 10-15 minutes. That might not have been the best thing for WSU, however, because the Utes had the athletes to keep up with WSU and the defensive skill to force WSU into bad decision.

The Utes showed an occasional trap defense and forced WSU into 17 turnovers. WSU's fast-break offense worked against it, increasing the number of possessions and increasing the speed at which the Utes were able to distance themselves from the Cougars.

Those turnovers threw WSU out of its offensive rhythm and WSU's only effective offense the rest of the game was early in the second half when it made 6 of 7 3-pointers, not all of which were great looks.

— Senior Jordan Railey had an interesting game in his first extensive action since the California game.  After the best game of his career in Berkeley, Railey played just five minutes against Washington and then 10 minutes in each of the last two games, ostensibly because of personnel matchups.

The glaring stat from Wednesday's game is Railey's 2 of 9 performance at the free throw line, which admittedly isn't great at a shot so easy the original basketball architects decided to put "free" right in the name.

Put in every other regard Railey actually played pretty well, scoring 12 points and collecting eight rebounds in 24 minutes. He also had a career-high five blocks and by getting to the line so frequently he kept Utah's bigs in foul trouble efor much of the game.

Some stats of note:

— DaVonté Lacy made three 3-pointers, moving him into fifth-place on WSU's all-time list.

— Freshman Trevor Dunbar's 15 minutes were his most yet in a Pac-12 game.

— Aaron Cheatum scored his first Pac-12 points.

Quotes of note:

Brett Boese on how WSU can better defend 3-pointers while in a zone defense:

" I think if you close out with high hands, hands in the passing lanes, everyone talks about the Syracuse zone how they're so effective, because their hands are always up."

Jordan Railey on attacking Utah inside since the Utes didn't have 7-footer Jakob Poeltl:

"I don't necessarily think it was anything to do with Poeltl himself, it was just what was available at the time.

Ernie Kent on why they lost:

"The number one thing we talked about today was taking away the 3-point shot and we did not do that. I thought our energy was good getting up and down the floor, I thought we battled back at times to cut it to 10 but you've got to take care of easy buckets."

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak on the game starting with a technical for dunking in warm-ups:

"I'm just happy now that we're enforcing all the rules of basketball."

Looking back at Oregon State

As I wrote in our story from yesterday's game, Washington State's offense simply wasn't working yesterday. The quickest way to beat a zone defense is by shooting well from the perimeter and the Cougars had one of their worst shooting days of the season.

Brett Boese sparked the Cougars early with a quick eight points, but those early eight points made him WSU's leading scorer for about the next hour because it was just that kind of day for the Cougars.

Ultimately, the loss hurts because OSU is a team that does not have more talent than WSU, even if the Beavers pose some matchup problems for the Cougars. Missing the opportunity to go 4-1 in Pac-12 play heading into what could easily be the toughest road swing this year for the Cougars is bad, but as long as the dismal shooting is an aberration it's still just one loss.

If WSU can steal one next week from Colorado or Utah on the road they will still emerge from the first third of their conference schedule with a winning Pac-12 record.

What could hurt really WSU, however, is if the Beavers provided a prescription for how to beat the Cougars that other teams can make use of. WSU's ball movement and ability to share the ball has been impressive in recent weeks, and the Cougars got open looks from the outside against OSU by passing around the perimeter or passing inside and kicking to the opposite wing.

But at times the Cougars appeared to be over-passing and playing into OSU's hands by slowing the game down in their ongoing search for a better shot.

WSU isn't likely to shoot as poorly as it did against OSU often, but it also probably isn't going to make almost everything like the Cougars did in wins over Washington and Oregon.

Some noteworthy stats:

— DaVonte Lacy made two 3-pointers, tying him with Derrick Low (2005-08) for 20th on WSU's career 3-point list.

— Boese has now scored eight or more points in three consecutive games.

— WSU's 16 first-half points are WSU's second fewest this year. The Cougars had 12 first-half points against UC Santa Barbara.

A few extra quotes:

OSU coach Wayne Tinkle, a Ferris High graduate:

" It was fun. As a player I never played very well when I came back close to home and it was neat for our guys for a lot of reasons."

WSU guard DaVonté Lacy:

"As a team they were very long, every time we were about to take a shot they were right there."

WSU coach Ernie Kent:

"First of all I want to say that I thought our crowd the last two games was just fantastic."

"DaVonte tried to get us going, he was banged up from the Oregon game. We didn't know how much he would be able to go and he did a good job of gutting himself through it and trying to push himself through it."

"To start the game we went right inside to Jordan Railey and his shot got block, we went back to Dex and had a layup that was missed.  We didn't get a lot done inside to start the game and we started settling for jump shots and obviously that was working either because we were missing shots."

Looking back at WSU’s win over Oregon

Indulge me for a second while I pastiche my favorite Aaron Sorkin soliloquy:

Offensive basketball when played almost perfectly is like music. It has rhythm and movement and pattern and harmony. These are the properties of music. And music has the ability to find us, and move us, and lift us up in ways that literal meaning can't. Do you see?

Well-executed offense is music and yesterday's game was 45 minutes of the opening stanzas of Baba O'Riley. At times the action was too quick to follow while trying to fire off a tweet or even simply mark a play in my notebook.

Just check out the sequence in this video captured by CougCenter's Jeff Nusser. A Vine video can only last six seconds and that one includes WSU taking the ball out of the net after a make, inbounding it and scoring.

Washington State made 14 of 24 3-pointers, almost all of them were wide open and most seemed to come when a player passed up a good shot for a better one. It certainly helps that basically every player had a good shooting night – Que Johnson was the only nine players that saw the floor to shoot less than 50 percent, and he made 2 of 3 3-pointers – but regardless of how well WSU is shooting the ball movement and knowledge of a new offense is impressive.

— The defense, obviously, could be better. Kent said afterward that it wasn't Jordan Railey's type of game – because of all the running, I believe, and that he's saying Railey is more suited to a half-court game like the Cougars played against California in which he excelled. But with Railey only playing 10 minutes the Cougars didn't have anyone to protect the rim and UO's Elgin Cook was able to score 26 points.

Joseph Young had a huge night with 32 points. WSU needs to get better at stopping high-level guards having now given up 29 or more points to Corey Hawkins, Nigel Williams-Goss and Young.

— WSU is now 2-0 in overtime games and has won three consecutive conference games that came down to the wire.

— Ike Iroegbu may not be playing point guard anymore but he is still WSU's shot creator on fast breaks, which is how he tied for the team lead with five assists. The Cougars have run the break very well in these last two games and if they score on an initial cutter they do a good job of finding the trailing big man, like in the video above and on a pretty pass that led to a Junior Longrus dunk.

Here are some more stats from the game:

— Lacy now has 1,302 career points and ranks No. 13 on the all-time WSU scoring list, having passed Carlos Daniel and Derrick Low yesterday.

— Josh Hawkinson had his 10th double-double of the season.

— WSU's 57 first-half points were the most first-half points scored by the Cougars in at least 15 years, and probably a lot more.

— Brett Boese scored a career-high 16 points. He's played 30-plus minutes in each of the last two games.

— WSU's 3-1 Pac-12 start is the best since the Cougars went 4-1 during the 2007-08 season.

Let's open up that quote book:

DaVonte Lacy:

"We're being confident and calm. Coach always talks about not getting too high and not getting too low and I think we've done a good job of that besides the mishap at Cal but we bounced back from that and still won that game. But we've played two games and knocked down our free throws and taken care of the ball and that's what good teams do."

What's really impressive about this team is we only have three seniors and all the young guys – these two (Josh Hawkinson and Ike Iroegbu) are sophomores and they're playing with really high character and high confidence in late-game situations. I don't know if we've had that in the past.

Coming into the game we knew how they were playing and they're very similar to us – they like to run and stuff. So coming into the game it was kind of a joke like we're going to put 100 up. That was like our motto, we're running and we're going to put 100 up. It was funny because right when we hit 100, I didn't notice it, but I looked at the bench and it was like, 'hey, we got a hundo.'

(How does your knee feel?)

It feels good. I wasn't 100 percent, I wasn't going to help my team out. If someone else was going to be 100 percent, I was probably like 85-90 percent but someone that was 100 percent was going to help the team better. It's just a little stinger but I'll be alright in the morning.

Ernie Kent:

This was about my basketball team and the next hurdle that we needed to overcome. They played really good on the road in conference play. They needed to come back home and handle all the adversity of playing at home and sometimes you think there is no adversity, there's a lot of adversity because now you have classes, you have the students pack, you have people patting them on their back. You can really fall into a trap and not have them ready to go like you are on the road when we can keep them in hotel rooms, keep them together, keep them in walkthroughs. I was proud of the fact that they got themselves ready to play.

My staff did an outstanding job getting them ready to play with the scouts and everything and when you're in an environment where you have to come down to the wire with a chance to win and don't get it done and come back and play even better in the overtime, that's pretty impressive.

It seems like with this team the bigger the stage, the better they're starting to play and if that building continues to be on fire like that with the students coming back and the energy it provides and the energy from the community sitting behind my back, there's so much more basketball in us and you're seeing a team that's really growing up before your eyes. It's Washington State's basketball team and it's an honor and a privilege to coach them because that's an excellent group of young men down there that have really bought in and believe.

Video: WSU players speak after practice

Tonight at 8 p.m. the Cougars will host Oregon in their Pac-12 home-opener. For now, here are some videos of the team.

DaVonte Lacy:


Brett Boese:


Josh Hawkinson:
  

 

 

WSU basketball: looking back at UW

After covering Washington State's 80-77 win over Washington yesterday I made it back to Pullman in time to see if the women's basketball team can follow with their first win ever over Stanford.

The Cardinal held on, but not before the Cougars got closer than they've ever been, forcing overtime before falling 86-76.

Now let's look back at yesterday's win over the Huskies.

— Ike Iroegbu was only the team's third-leading scorer yesterday but coach Ernie Kent said afterward that he made the difference in the game because of the way he pushed the tempo. Iroegbu continues to thrive in a role off the ball this season and while he's had success all season driving to the hoop, it seemed like he took a step forward on Saturday by consistently finding shooters after he got to the cup.

DaVonte Lacy and Que Johnson are going continue shooting the ball well outside if they can sit in the corners and wait for the open looks Iroegbu gave them. So the Cougars are getting open looks early in the shot clock, and even if they miss those quick shots are going to coax the other team into playing an up-tempo pace themselves.


That was the game plan yesterday and it worked perfectly, forcing UW's big men to spend more time running back and forth than hanging out on the blocks.

"What we tried to do with the game was to take the bigs out of the game with the speed of the game," Kent said. "They're at one end of the floor while we're making plays, therefore they couldn't be shot blockers because we're going fast and that was our game plan."

— In both of WSU's Pac-12 wins the Cougars have been very good in the final minutes. DaVonte Lacy made all six free throw attempts once UW started intentionally sending WSU to the line, a big reason the Cougars were able to pull out the win in a hostile environment.

"I knew I was going to take them because I told myself if we win or lose it's going to be on my shoulders," Lacy said. "I am a senior so it had to be on my shoulders. I just stepped up and did what I do best."

It wasn't Lacy's highest scoring (or second highest-scoring) game of the season, but to me it felt like his best game of the year. He made just 2 of 9 3-point attempts, but went 6 of 8 inside the arc. He attacked the basket and peppered the defense with jump shots but never dominated the ball or took the offense out of its rhythm.

It was a game that showed how Lacy can still be a big-time scorer without shots being created for him on a whiteboard.

— Que Johnson and Brett Boese combined for 26 points and got the Cougars through the first half when Lacy and Josh Hawkinson weren't scoring much. It figured that Johnson would start to put up some good numbers eventually, but Boese, who prepped at Shadle Park, has been a pleasant surprise for the Cougars.

Kent always seemed to view Boese as a useful piece – a shooter that had enough size to defend forwards and eat a few minutes while Hawkinson or Jordan Railey rested. But Kent has stated a few times that Boese was more or less playing to the maximum of his ability in recent weeks.

Boese showed a little more on Saturday. He made 3 of his 5 3-point attempts and score 11 points, but more importantly he was aggressive. Early in the game he seemed like the most fired up guy on the floor and he played 31 minutes (despite sitting the first four) because of his defense.

When the rest of the Cougars started to play well it seemed that they were matching Boese's energy and if he plays like that he could become an important sixth man for the Cougars, a versatile one that gives Kent a lot of flexibility.

Here is the game book:


  

And let's open up that Ernie Kent quote book:

"I want to talk about this team first of all because I thought, number one, that this was a fantastic college basketball game. I know the Seahawks are playing today but for the people who came and watched this game, to see the energy in the building from Washington's crowd, the ferocious pace that we set early in the game and for them not to break, to come right back up on us and play that fast as big as they were, I just thought it was a tremendous college basketball game.

"I'm real, real proud of guys like DaVonte Lacy who's from over in this area, made the journey to Washington State and has not had a lot of success. And to come back here in his senior year and play that well and get a W, I'm real proud of this team.

"This was a team that I was told couldn't defend; the numbers told you that these last couple of years, couldn't shoot; their numbers told you that these last couple of years, couldn't shoot free throws; these last couple of years, but yet we took them, put our arms around them, we let them empty their backpack of all that negative stuff and I'm just happy for them that they're coming of age right now."

WSU basketball: looking back at UC Davis

It wasn’t always pretty, but Sunday's 90-83 win over UC Davis was just what Washington State needed.

You can read our story from that game here and we'll take a closer look at yesterday's game after the jump.