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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."



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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