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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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WSU basketball: posts need to step up

Josh Hawkinson has been Washington State's best basketball player in 2014 and continued his strong play yesterday.

The 6-foot-10 forward scored 16 points and collected 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the season.

Hawkinson played 33 minutes in WSU's 77-71 loss to Idaho on Wednesday. All of WSU's other posts combined to total just 35 minutes, and that's including 13 minutes from Brett Boese, who is a guard that's playing wing in a post's body.

Apart from the sophomore from Shoreline the Cougars are getting very little out of their big men and it's causing problems for the rest of the team.

Read on after the jump.

Coach Ernie Kent likes to get up and down the floor and score by having a numbers advantage in transition, which leads to easy points. He'd rather be fast than big.

To that end, he instituted a wrinkle for the Cougars this season in which Hawkinson or another post is the only big man alongside four guards. It's something he has in his back pocket and can break it out when the Cougars are trying to speed up another team or need some quick energy.

Unless you're Villanova, and the Cougars are not, a four-guard lineup is unlikely to be effective for long periods, particularly if it's not used in combination with some sort of full-court press to prevent a half-court game from developing.

It gives the other team an obvious rebounding advantage and forces your guards to bang with much bigger players in the post, where they are at such a disadvantage that – if the ball is entered to an opponent on the block -- their only options are to foul or get out of the way.

"Yeah, you've got to be strong," guard Ike Iroegbu said after Wednesday's loss. "He's trying to go at you because he thinks he can get a bucket so you've got to be strong and do your best to make it hard for him to get a bucket."

Iroegbu bore the brunt of those mismatches and fouled out just over three quarters of the way through the game. With him out of the game or in foul trouble, WSU's only means of scoring appeared to be 3-point shooting (they made 5 of 30) or Hawkinson's 16 points, many of which came via midrange jump shots.

And that's where the Cougars need more from their posts. They need them to score, but first they simply need them to be a better option than playing small-ball.  Junior Longrus is a stout, energetic player and helps the Cougars on the defensive end of the floor.

Last season he showed off a developing baseline jump shot and if he can bring that back and expand upon it, it would give Kent a lot more options and relieve pressure on WSU's guards, who aren't handling it particularly well right now. He started yesterday but played just 17 minutes and took two shots.

That's still much more of a contribution than the Cougars got from senior forward Jordan Railey and junior transfer Aaron Cheatum, who played 4 and 1 minutes, respectively.

Railey is coordinated and pretty athletic for his size and both Ken Bone and now Ernie Kent have felt that he can develop into a good Pac-12 post, but it's got to happen soon. As a junior college transfer it's understandable that Cheatum needs an adjustment period, but the Cougars need him right now.

"With Jordan it's confidence, with Junior it's confidence, with Cheatum it's confidence," Kent said. "Those guys have got to get on their games. If we're going to be successful this year we've got to get more out of their inside guys."

Jacob Thorpe
Jacob Thorpe joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He currently is a reporter for the Sports Desk covering Washington State University athletics.

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