PULLMAN – It’s a process, as new Cougars head basketball coach Ernie Kent likes to say. That process started slowly Friday night as Washington State won a scrappy game 88-74 over Azusa Pacific at Friel Court.
In Kent’s first game as WSU coach, defense and early missed layups plagued the Cougars as they allowed the Azusa Pacific Cougars to hang around for a healthy portion of the second half. Eventually “small ball” won the game for WSU, Kent said.
“We’ve got work to do. I like to teach, but I’m a tough teacher, so I would give us a ‘C’ in that ballgame,” Kent said. “If you’re not getting ‘A’s’ and ‘A-pluses’ at this level, you’re getting beat, so we’ve got work to do just in terms of knowing your job and doing your job, possession by possession.”
A half-full student section turned out for what turned out to be a tight game until a second-half stretch in which WSU made 11 of 12 field goals.
“I’m hoping that they like what they saw, and the next time we play here, everyone can bring a friend. I think that would be good, and then the next time everyone brings another friend, I think that’s a good way of doing it, because we’re going to need the students and we’re going to need the crowd,” Kent said.
WSU’s leading scorer from last season, DaVonte Lacy, was passed the stat sheet by a player who averaged 1.2 points per game in 2013.
A much slimmer Josh Hawkinson came off the bench to finish with a double-double, scoring 24 points on 10-of-11 shooting. He also grabbed 18 rebounds for WSU.
“I think it’s an awesome system because on any given night, anyone can go off for a certain amount of points,” Hawkinson said.
Lacy did contribute quite a bit, though. His 22 points gave Hawkinson plenty of support.
WSU started to break away with about 14 minutes remaining in the second half, but Azusa Pacific roared back and lingered within two points with under less than 10 minutes to play. Lacy’s 3-pointer in transition with 8:14 remaining in the game, following a steal by Que Johnson, was integral in breaking the game open.
“It didn’t start off how we wanted it to start off,” Lacy said. “I think it was just because of all the jitters, and just getting our first game under our belt, but it went good.”
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