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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.
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.
Locker rooms interviews.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Washington State coach Ernie Kent joined Ike Iroegbu and Josh Hawkinson to address the media following WSU's loss to California. Below is a transcript of what they said.
Ernie Kent opening statement:
First of all, I want to talk about Cal because I thought they did a really excellent job in the game. Shooting, they shot the ball extremely well from the 3 and I thought (David) Kravish was just spectacular with his play inside. We didn't have a lot of answers in there for him and had a difficult time defending the perimeter as well, too, which is a problem we've had off and on, obviously all year.
I also want to say, when I took over this program 11 months ago, I saw a group of young men that lacked a lot of confidence. I saw a group of young men that have been through so much the last two years and it's a testament to their character that they have been just phenomenal in terms of allowing us to coach them, handling themselves both on the floor and off the floor. The travel, handling themselves in airports and hotels, it's just a really special group to be around. Their record may not reflect it but they had a lot of victories this year just in terms of how much growth took place in our program.
Question: How much did you game plan for David Kravish?
Ernie Kent: He did not hurt us too bad the last two games and we talked about keeping the ball out of his hands and keeping him from touching it so much. I just don't think we did a very good job of that. Once he got rolling and got his confidence, he was very, very difficult to stop. So, I wouldn't say he was the No. 1 focal point, just because their guards are so good – Matthews has been shooting it so well, Tyrone torched us for 21 in the first half, alone, when we played them last – but it was certainly a focal point to try to limit his touches.
Q: Were you surprised at their early advantage in hustle plays?
EK: The surprise wasn't so much the hustle points, it was the hustle points that we gave up to them. I thought there were several opportunities that we could have grabbed rebounds, we were kind or bumbling into each other a little bit so I don't know if that's nerves or whatever. I didn't think we got off to a great start to the game and consequently, they had great confidence after the first eight or nine minutes and it was a different Cal team that we had to deal with.
Q: How important was Jabari Bird's performance defending DaVonté Lacy and how did Cal stop he and Josh Hawkinson?
EK: I thought they did a really good job out on the perimeter with using their athletic guards to switch. It took us out of some things. I think for us, when we defend and we have energy at that end of the floor we can get out and run and get some easy buckets. They eliminated a lot of that and we lost the offensive rebounds and gave up easy putbacks. It's hard to run on a team when they're scoring; they shoot 67 percent from 3 and Kravish is having the game he had, there's not a lot of transition opportunities for us, which doesn't allow DaVonté to get out and run and create some opportunities to get easy buckets. Everything became a half-court game and they were pretty good defensively, taking some things away from us.
Q: Question for Ike Iroegbu and Josh Hawkinson, since you will both be back next year can you talk about the team's development this year?
Ike Iroegbu: This year was hard coming off what we had last year and when we first met coach Kent he talked about how we were going to play fast and I felt like we did that, for the most part, this year. And me and Josh, we underclassmen I feel like we learned a lot from our three seniors: Jordan (Railey, Dex(ter Kernich-Drew) and DaVonté. The led us, for the most part. They did a great job of teaching us how to act on and off the court and coach Kent instilled confidence in us that we hadn't seen before so I appreciate everyone that was around us and can't wait until next year.
Josh Hawkinson: Pretty much the same thing, what he said. We've been working a lot as a unit, and growing over this past year, and we didn't want to end it this way for our seniors, Dex, Vonté and Jordan, but I think we've got a good group of guys coming back to make a strong run next year.
Q: Why wasn't Jordan able to continue his strong play in the second half?
EK: A big thing with Jordan, as you know, is confidence. I thought – they started the game with a small lineup, so we instantly went inside and I thought he got off to a great start to the game, probably had a couple more buckets that he could have scored that would have really helped his confidence.
The foul trouble really knocked him out of rhythm, I thought, because he was really starting to find his rhythm in the game and he picked up the second quick foul and consequently picked up the third foul, too, in the second half. So I thought they had a big effect on his confidence in the second half.
Q: What's your message to your three seniors?
EK: A couple things. I told them every team in the country, when it's all sad and done there's only one champion at the end of the year and everyone else feels like us. Because when your season ends it's an abrupt end to everything. The emotions and all that stuff. For those three seniors, however, they need to really take some time and stop and reflect in terms of how much growth and development happened to them in their lives.
Because, if you knew each one of their individual stories, they are already a success in their lives for being here and handling themselves because those are some strong character men down there that did a tremendous job of laying and outstanding foundation. So I told them that this program, and me and my staff, will forever be indebted to what they did for us this year. Because they did a lot behind the scenes by allowing themselves to be transparent and showing their strength of character, because it's outstanding.
Q: What do you think about Lacy's career coming to an end?
EK: Specifically you want them to play again, particularly those seniors, you want them to play as much as possible because he's a player – in this day and age, I've said this several times. With young people, there were 400 transfers in Division I college basketball last year, 500 last year, it's on course to be 600 this year and when you have a player that's your best player, one of the better players in the conference, he did not jump schools. So many players want to jump schools because they can have success more and have an opportunity to get to the NBA quicker, whatever. He stayed. He stayed at his school, he was true to his school and if anybody deserved to have some success, it was DaVonté Lacy.
For me, part of the emotion you saw was a young man who loved his teammates and loved his college experience and it was very difficult to see that come to an end. That, to me, epitomizes what the college student-athlete should be about: staying, staying loyal, staying true to his home and trying to build this basketball program, and when he had an opportunity to leave he did not do it.
Q: What are your thoughts on the program moving forward?
EK: You know, I was elated the day that Bill Moos gave me an opportunity to come back and work for him and get back into coaching. Every day, even through the adversity, every day has been a good day because even through your losses, even through the adversity of coming back, your basketball program was constantly learning and growing and getting better.
With the year that DaVonté Lacy had, and Jordan and Dex, their growth shows me again that relationships are extremely important at this level. To see these guys next to me, how much they've developed this year – Ike did a fabulous job for us, the game he had the last game of the season was just an incredible game and he's had some wonderful moments. For Josh to lead this conference in rebounding, to have the second-biggest turnaround in college basketball in terms of most-improved (points per game), I can't tell you how happy and how proud I am of those two. Because, the three seniors led us to this point and they left this program in tremendous hands with Ike, Josh and Junior Longrus is another. Those are going to be three very vocal, outstanding seniors that again, are on track academically, are your hardest workers, they're going to be the guys we call on next year and I think we have great, great leadership coming down the road.
Q: Josh, where do you take your game this offseason?
JH: I definitely feel I need to improve defensively, guarding smaller players out on the perimeter that I need to switch out on. Also, getting stronger and getting better position on the post, fronting, not letting them get the ball. Because I feel like Kravish kind of exposed our posts, tonight, definitely. Continue to get quicker and improve my shot, extend it out to 3-point range as well.
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.
— 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.
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 Arizona
It's rivalry week at Washington State and the Cougars will try to sweep the regular-season series with the Huskies for the first time since the 2010-11 season. But first we have to put yesterday's game to bed.
But there's still some more to take away from yesterday's game so let's take a look.
— First off, it wasn't a bad game for the Cougars because they couldn't keep up with Arizona. As I pointed out in this morning's blog post, the Wildcats have four starters that were considered five-star recruits by Scout.com, which is four more than the Cougars have signed since Scout began keeping track in 2002.
So while the Cougars were physically outmatched by the Wildcats, that was to be expected. The problem is that when the going got tough WSU wilted instead of rising to the challenge. If the Cougars had been tougher than UA and countered their opponent's athleticism with their own physicality they might not have outrebounded the Wildcats, but they probably would not have collected only three of the game's first 16 rebounds, or trailed in the category 30-9 at halftime.
The Cougars failed to rise up in the mental game even more than the physical game, and the sheer scope of 53-19 halftime deficit was due to an inability to make the routine plays that could have kept the game somewhat respectable, not an inability to make the superhuman plays that could have triggered an upset. WSU was continually lost on screens and gave up plays – the alley-oop to Brandon Ashley on an inbounds, for one – that any team could have run against the addle-brained Cougars on Sunday.
— Ike Iroegbu continued to struggle to finish shots near the rim, missing all four of his shots on Sunday. This is a fairly recent problem for Iroegbu, who 52.4 two-point field goal percentage still leads the team. It's also a big improvement from last season, when Iroegbu made just 38 percent of his shots inside the arc.
But having Iroegbu drive to the basket has been one of WSU's best ways to create good scoring opportunities so the offense will be hampered as long as he continues to struggle in that area.
Ernie Kent was asked afterwards about whether or not Iroegbu's misses are mostly mental. He replied:
"I would say yes, more so physical. Because, obviously he's gifted enough to get there and get to the basket and everything, but he's not played well. We've got to get him back on track again because we're going to need him next weekend and obviously to have any opportunity to close this year on a really, really positive note."
— Hollis-Jefferson was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week after averaging 17 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 steals in wins over Washington and WSU. Against the Cougars Jefferson scored 17 points by making 8 of 9 shots (though just 1 of 6 free throws) and brought down 10 rebounds.
Some notes from the game:
— Prior to the Oregon game, Dexter Kernich-Drew had not led the team in scoring once this season. He has now led the team in scoring for three consecutive games.
— Kernich-Drew made a career-high 6 3-point field goals against the Wildcats and is averaging 4.7 made 3-pointers over the last three games. He is now hitting 52.5 percent from behind the arc in Pac-12 games.
— Josh Hawkinson went without a double-double in a Pac-12 series for the first time this year.
— The Beasley Coliseum crowd of 5,331 was the largest of the year.
And some quotes from the game:
Arizona's T.J. McConnell: "Washington State had a very off first half. They played a lot better in the second half, like we thought they would."
DaVonté Lacy comparing Arizona and Gonzaga: "They’re both really, really good. Probably going to compete for a national championship this year. I just think they’re two different teams. Arizona has the athletes whereas Gonzaga’s more skilled and methodical in their approach with their big men. But Arizona’s athletes and when you put athletes with talent that work hard, then you get what Arizona has. It’s going to be interesting to see how far both teams go but they’re both great programs."
Kent on moving past this loss: "You just move the game, you don't get too up, you don't get too down, you just get ready for the next one. And it's more important for us just to find ourselves and get back on our games again this week because Washington, I believe they've lost seven in a row. This is a rivalry game – you throw records out the window.
The energy that goes into this, we'll get a completely different team over here very similar to when Cal came over here and kind of found themselves and got rolling on us. We need to make sure we're ready to play in a big rival game, we'll take the week to get ready, we won't have a hangover from this game. It's more about doing what we need to do to make sure we're playing well.
We covered Dexter Kernich-Drew's big night pretty extensively in our game story. But another player made a big impact in WSU's 74-71 win over the Sun Devils.
You can read that game story here.
— Ike Iroegbu had an interesting game. With Ny Redding out of the starting lineup Iroegbu assumed the primary ball-handler duties and was a great distributor early in the game, dishing four assists in the first four minutes. His speed really seemed to give the Sun Devils trouble on defense and he's a heady enough player to draw the defense and then find the open jump-shooter waiting in the vacated spot.
But after the game Ernie Kent resisted the idea that Iroegbu is developing into a true point guard and it's obvious he still thinks there is a lot the sophomore can improve upon. With DaVonté Lacy and Kernich-Drew graduating soon, it's likely that Iroegbu will be one of WSU's most important offensive players for the next two years and so Kent wants him to establish himself more fully before the Cougars head into the offseason.
Here is what Kent said:
"He did some good things in the game. In terms of a true point guard and developing into it more, we’re a long way away from that because that’s the most critical position on the floor and we made a ton of mistakes out on that floor with the leadership at that position at times, defensively and offensively. … We look at flow, we look at feel, we look at do you make the right read and to his credit again, we’re asking a lot of those point guards because this system is different than a walk it up and down the floor system. You’ve got to be able to make split decisions going 100 miles-per-hour and that’s very difficult to do."
The 100 miles-per-hour comment makes me think Kent was especially displeased with one 3-on-2 fast break when Lacy hit Iroegbu, who easily sped past the two defenders. The trouble was he was going so fast he was barely able to get his shot off before he flew out of bounds and he missed the layup.
Iroegbu's speed is going to create problems for every defense he faces. But until he plays with better control it's also going to create headaches for the Cougars.
Here are some notes from the game:
— Friday's game was the third time in Kernich-Drew's career that he led the team in scoring.
— Lacy passed Bennie Seltzer (1990-93) to move into eighth-place on WSU's all-time scoring list.
— Lacy's 234 3-pointers give him sole possession of 2nd place all-time at WSU.
— Josh Hawkinson's scoreless first half was his first scoreless half of the season.
And some notable quotes:
Kernich-Drew on confidence: "Coach Kent tries to find whoever's hot and let them play. It makes you just relax a little more. It wasn't really about me going out and getting shots up."
Lacy on what he told Kernich-Drew as they stood near midcourt with the game in hand: " In short terms basically good job. Not those exact words but I'm proud of him, he deserved it. He played really well this past week and we tried to just get him to play how he's playing in practice. He did today."
Kent on the seniors: "Yesterday, I talked to those three seniors, I think even as normal students, seniors start to feel that senioritis, they start to feel that pressure their senior year as to what’s going to happen, where they’re going to go. When you talk about athletes, when you’ve told them for four years where to go, you tell them what they’re going to eat, when they’re going to be on time, what to wear… You just control their lives so much. When they get to be a senior, there is a big fear whether they’ll admit it or not, that sits there with that uncertainty of what’s coming, so we tried to free them up and told them just to enjoy the last games and lead us. And I thought they were tremendous."
Ernie Kent spent the first part of this week on the road recruiting while his players took a couple days off.
But he returned in time to sit down with the media and talk about this weekend's games against the Arizona schools. Afterwards the Cougars held practiced and I was able to speak with Ike Iroegbu and Dexter Kernich-Drew. Those videos and a transcript of Kent's remarks are below.
WSU head coach Ernie Kent
Question: Who runs practice when you're on the road recruiting?
Ernie Kent: We have days off. We had Monday and Tuesday off, just because we played on Sunday and we've been on a schedule to give our guys a couple days off just because typically when you play on Saturday on the road and you travel back on Sunday. With us traveling back here … it's really not a true day off. So we were giving them Mondays off. That's a pretty good routine with them and with us playing the game on Friday we felt like Monday-Tuesday was a good time to get some time of and we could do a little bit of recruiting now. When they do that they still work with our strength and conditioning coach, they're still getting in cold pools so we're really working at getting their legs back and getting their bodies back. Particularly those guys that log a lot of minutes.
Q: What stood out when you reviewed last weekend's games?
EK: We played, we executed a really good game plan against Oregon State. And we had them down, we had a chance to really put some distance because when you play a team like that if they get up on you 10 it's like being up 20, but if you get up on them 10, 12 it's like being up 20, too.
We didn't take advantage of that because we did not shoot the ball. Our guards, Que, Dexter, DaVonte were like 8 for 21 I think and then Ike and Ny were another 4 for 12. You've got ot shoot the ball better so we had our chance to really separate and put them in a big hole and we did not take advantage of that.
To me it was a wasted game in a sense because it was right there for us to win and they did a good job of closing out the game. Oregon, I felt like they played their best game of the year. I felt like with all the emotion going back into that environment for me, this team felt it being in that building, that crowd, it took Oregon and we talked about this before the game, they played up.
They played great with fantastic energy and everything else. We did not respond and again did not start the game shooting the ball well, turned it over and got ourselves in a big hole. We played hard, we battled through it in the second half but by then the game is so far out of reach you basically manage the game and get out of the game without getting people hurt.
Q: Was there a correlation between the end of the OSU game and the start of the UO game?
EK: The biggest correlation is and we went through this with the Utah-Colorado trip, we played on a Thursday and then had to come back and play on a Sunday. They played on a Wednesday then came back and played on a Sunday so that extra day sitting there is huge to take a day off when you watch a team play, where we had to go right into prepping for games. So that would be the biggest thing. But, you know, I felt like not shooting it well on the road at Oregon State and then that crowd and that energy they started to play with, it certainly was a hangover just putting the ball in the hole but it was nothing that we did not expect. We knew the building was going to be energized, we knew they were going to come after us having lost here and they did exactly that.
Q: Did you see a big adjustment between the first and second games against UO?
EK: I think the biggest adjustment was that they came out just on fire. They shot it so well. We matched that shooting here in Pullman as you'll remember. IT was a heck of a college basketball game. They scored 98 points and we scored 108 points, that's a lot of points put up on the board. They came back with the same team, only with more energy. We didn't come back with the same team that was here in Pullman and that kind of confidence and that was a big difference in the game when it got away from us. The ball just didn’t' go in at the start for whatever reason and it got out of hand very quickly.
Q: What has Dexter Kernich-Drew been doing differently?
EK: Well, he was aggressive but we didn't get a lot accomplished. He hit the two big 3s but he also had some (bad) plays, offensively and defensively. We didn't get a lot done in the game in the first half of the game. I felt like there were drives where he missed layups, he was responsible for Young and lost him a couple times – Young was playing with so much energy, beat us down the floor. Our rotations were a step slow, they were a step faster than us. The comment I made was that they were running a 100-yard dash, we were running a mile.
Their energy was just superior to ours. With Dex I don’t want to say he didn't do anything differently because he's played well in practice, as well, and really as the practices carried over to the games he's played as well in the games, with the same kind of confidence, courage, firepower that we need out of him. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Coming down the stretch it's so important for Dexter, DaVonte and Jordan. They need to make sure they close out their college careers in a big way and I'm going to talk to them about that today. Just the confidence, the courage, the enjoyment and having fun of being on their games and it's just as important for these underclassmen to make sure they close out their college careers in a big way so we can have some success late in the season heading into Pac-12 tournament play.
Q: If he plays well could you go back to some of the small-ball lineups from earlier in the year?
EK: The small ball really depends on that matchups on the other side. If teams have a small lineup, only one big on the floor, Arizona State with Gilling's a small forward and everything, you can get away with some of that. If you look at teams like Stanford and Reid's playing again, or you look at Washington where we had to go small to beat them with a little more speed. But there are some teams where their bigs are really effective and you have to be careful going small because they can really pound you inside.
But yes, it allows us to have the flexibility to go small, play faster, put more skill, more scorers on the floor.
Q: When you play a slow and fast team the same week does that make it challenging?
EK: It shouldn't (affect the players). The only scenario where you have that is Oregon State with the way they play and everybody goes through that, all of their scores are down because they shorten down possessions, they do a good job defensively, a good job of grinding the game out, making the game ugly and closing it out in the last few minutes of the game. And their biggest advantage is having their people back in the building – that's a tough place to play over there now with that crowd sitting on top of you as well as their style of play.
If you have the right aggressive approach, you saw them play UCLA, UCLA just splits them. They got out the gate, they stayed aggressive, they were fast, they attacked, they were successful. Then you can control tempo. But if you don't get out the gate against them and allow them to control tempo, now it's a whole different ballgame. Now it's become difficult to go from a speed game in one game to just a grind-it-out kind of dogfight and then the next game, because you did not get out the gate and control tempo and force them to play your speed, they force you to play their speed.
Q: What have you seen from Arizona State?
EK: I've seen a team that plays really, really hard. I've seen a team that is starting to figure out who they are and who they are as an identity having last Jahii Carson, Bachynski, that was a big hit for their program and now they're starting to figure out how to do some things.
They're very good defensively, they play with a tremendous amount of energy. Both of these games this weekend are going to be extremely tough games for us because the personnel in both of them will present problems. Arizona State, they played a heck of a basketball game against Arizona last week. Controlled tempo, played hard, knocked down big shots. If we get that same team and we're not ready to match their intensity, their energy, their confidence, we'll struggle in the game. So we need to make sure we're ready to play that game and not look ahead, we can't afford to look ahead to an Arizona game on Sunday.
Q: What's the focus in practice leading up to the ASU game?
EK: I think the biggest focus for us is to not worry about them but to worry about us. We have to get back on our games is what I call it and for those seniors especially, having done this before there has to be some nervous there. There has to be, very similar to you guys that have gone through it as you hit your senior year and that light comes on at the end of the tunnel and "what am I going to do now? What do I do with my life next?"
You're talking about players that have been in comfort zones in terms of scholarships, travel, meal money, told where to go, when to be there and all of a sudden, boom, it's coming to an end. There has to be some nervousness there. We have to make sure that those three guys play with confidence and understand it's so important for them to close out their careers the right way.
If we do not do that, that's a lot of firepower that we don't have. If DaVonte's out of whack, Dexter's out of whack, Jordan's out of whack in these games it doesn't matter which gameplan we put in, we're going to struggle in the game. So we really don't worry so much about an opponent as we worry about our mental approach to the game and do we have our energy and our confidence.
Q: What does Brett need to do to regain his confidence?
EK: I talk about he needs to empty his backpack. It's interesting dealing with this team and how, sometimes I would say, fragile confidence is with any player across the country unless you're a senior that's had a dominant career. In his case, he misses one or two shots and he starts thinking too much and now I'm in a slump. Well no you're not, you missed a few shots.
There's so much more he was doing to help us win games. His energy up and down the floor, his blocking out, his rebounding, he allowed us to play small-ball because he was in the right places defensively. All of that translates into, you've got an open shot and a chance to shoot it. It's not just about scoring the basketball so he tends to get a little bit frustrated and we need to calm him down. That's all about confidence, again, understanding that he's got a green light to shoot it, he's going to play, he's going to get minutes. Just relax and play.
Q: Why should students resist the urge to go home for the long weekend?
EK: I can't control what the students do. Having an opportunity to go home for a long weekend and see family and friends, that's a big one there. You don't know whether they've been here, they're in a rut, they need to leave or whatever.
I can only control the environment of my basketball team, my practices, locker room and once we get to game time. I would hope that people in the community, they'll be here, they're not going away for the weekend. Our crowds have not been great. We started building them because we had some success and then we had a big hiccup the Oregon State weekend and all of a sudden here we are in a bit of a spiral again and people have lost some faith. It's all a process and when we look back on this people will understand how hard we have to work to have the success down the road. I'm hoping that those that do stay here, because I understand people needing to go home. The ones that are here I hope come see two great ballgames because these are two really good teams coming here, you see a ranked team coming in here in Arizona on Sunday, you see a team that just beat that ranked team coming in on Friday. They're going to be excellent basketball games so those students that do stay, I hope they come out and support us.
Q: Is "The Process" playing out like you would hope?
EK: Any coach would want more wins and when I look at our schedule and look at Idaho, Santa Clara, look at Oregon State here, look at Cal here, look at Oregon State on the road, games you were right there to close out games and you could have played better or should have done some things differently in the game, those are hard to take because you didn’t' manage your schedule at times as a program. But in the same sense, we've had tremendous growth and I always use this phrase, I talked about with the group this morning, you get these jobs and you go in, you really have to evaluate. You evaluate the media, the fan support, marketing, your system, what it takes for them to be successful.
You evaluate and once you have a feel for that, evaluation takes place, then you start to anticipate. Here comes the start of the season. OK, we get to see now. I've done TV games, let me see what Oregon's game plan is like, let me see USC, see their talent. See where we are compared to everybody else. And then you start to calculate.
Here's what we need, here's where we're going, here's the pieces we have. So that's kind of what you're going through so when you look at it through that perspective as a coach I'm comfortable with what we've seen and what we've done so far. The season has given us an opportunity to see the best programs in the conference, the best players in the conference, the strengths and weaknesses of the conference and it allows you to understand where you need to go with your program. The recruiting, the teaching, the coaching, the talent. You can evaluate all that and say OK, let's reload, this is where we need to get to having been through the conference and seen all the teams.
Q: Did the Duck in Oregon actually dress up in a three-piece suit?
EK: Actually, as focused as I was I didn't even notice the Duck, maybe that's why. That's pretty cool if that happened and everything. It was neat to be back because, again, I think as coaches we're so driven and sometimes you have to get off the merry-go-round and stop and take a look back to understand what you've accomplished with different programs and players at points in time of your career.
Being let go at Oregon gave me a chance to do that. I will never forget my sister calling me on Father's Day one year in the midst of my four-year leave of absence and say, 'Do you realize what you've accomplished and all that you've done?' So when you go back into that environment and see all those pictures on the practice court and all those pictures around that arena. We took the team into the locker room so they can see all those pictures in their team meeting room, all those nametags above the locker room giving the point totals of all the greatest players.
Out of those 20 names up above, three-fourths of them are your players or you played with them and of those pictures up there, 90 percent of them are pictures of your past players. So it's a good feeling that you were able to accomplish all of that for Eugene, you've given them a beautiful building, all of those support staff people have a great building to come to work in versus that old run-down Mac Court building that we did a good job putting lipstick on it. But probably the biggest thing was to help the young guys in this program what you can accomplish with a vision.
Because we started further back at Oregon than we're starting here at Washington State and we were able to bring that program that far and to see that building the other day, it was nice to see it, it was even better to be there on the sidelines as a coach because you had been told so many times, "He will never coach in that building," by critics, by whoever. And yet, little did people know that God's plan in all this was for you to coach in that building, but little did they know you were going to be coaching on the other end of it. To go back in there was a special feeling for all those people and all those fans to acknowledge that.
Pac-12 Network analysts Kevin O'Neill and Lamar Hurd have good things to say about WSU guard Ike Iroegbu.
Ernie Kent has been adamant that Iroegbu is not a point guard, but I think he'd agree with O'Neill when he calls him the fastest player in the Pac-12 with the ball (even though Kent says Trevor Dunbar is the quickest player on the team).
Here is the video:
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:
"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.
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.
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."
Washington State's 91-71 win over Texas San-Antonio on Saturday was insightful, but not indicative.
The Cougars are likely to win every game in which they shoot 60 percent on 3-point attempts and they are unlikely to come close to that success rate very often, so there's not a whole lot to be gleaned from yesterday's shooting performance other than that DaVonte Lacy appears to have found his shot and the team is shooting with more confidence.
But there is still a lot to dissect from yesterday's game and we'll do just that, and pass along the game book, after the jump.
Follow the jump for transcriptions.
Follow the jump for a transcription of coach Ken Bone following WSU's win over UCLA.