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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Cougars fail to finish what they start at UCLA

LOS ANGELES – As the expectation of defeat gives way to the hope of victory, Washington State’s basketball players are experiencing a new kind of postgame pain: The kind that comes not from losing in a place the Cougars virtually never win, but from feeling like they should have. The UCLA Bruins powered their way to a 72-67 victory over the Cougars and the 9,082 fans at Pauley Pavilion got the result they had every right to expect against an opponent that has come into their house and won only twice in 57 attempts. But it was a rare occasion, because the Cougars didn’t lack the impact players to compete in a building housing 12 retired jerseys and 11 NCAA championship banners, and while the result was typical, the game was certainly not ordinary. “Any loss hurts no matter if you’re in the game or out of the game but it hurts that we played well but not well enough to win,” guard DaVonte Lacy said. And it served as further evidence that while the Cougars (12-16, 6-10 Pac-12) have improved to a level at which they can be competitive enough to win most games, they are still learning how to make it happen. “As I told this team, they are going to be sick when they look at the tape and see, at minimum, 50 basketball plays they left on that floor,” coach Ernie Kent said. Like Kent suggested, it was the little things that cost the Cougars on Sunday. While UCLA (18-12, 10-7) has its usual handful of high school All-Americans, the Cougars countered with their own all-time leading 3-point shooter and the most voracious collector of double-doubles in the school’s history. Lacy made three 3-pointers to pass Klay Thompson on the school’s career list with 243, while Josh Hawkinson’s 21 points and 14 rebounds gave him his 18th double-double, more than any Cougar has had in one season. WSU won the battle on the chalkboard, and the Cougars forced the Bruins to play the game they wanted. They blew past UCLA’s initial press with long outlet passes that created easy shots, quickly prompting Bruins coach Steve Alford to call his defense back. WSU built a 30-23 lead when Brett Boese hit his second 3-pointer of the first half but, just like in the close win over USC on Wednesday and last week’s loss to Washington, WSU proved unable to build upon a lead. “I honestly felt like we should have won this game but we let off the gas pedal and left too many plays on the court tonight,” Hawkinson said. The Cougars beat the Bruins inside in the first half and held a 19-13 advantage on the boards. But WSU turned the ball over continually – 10 times in the first half alone, including three traveling violations – and held only a 34-32 advantage at halftime. “We had a chance to really fatigue them and we didn’t do it,” Kent said. “To their credit, they took advantage of all those wasted opportunities.” With the home crowd behind them and with center Tony Parker finding his rhythm in the second half – Parker did not start because he was late to the pregame shootaround – it was almost inevitable that the Bruins would eventually take the lead. Guard Norman Powell scored 16 of his game- and career-high 28 points in the second half, including a coast-to-coast dunk in which no WSU player turned to look at the ball, prompting a timeout from a visibly frustrated Kent. Parker scored 11 second-half points and reversed WSU’s rebounding advantage, outrebounding the Cougars 21-13 in the second half. The Cougars likewise kept in contact in the second half but UCLA made eight free throws in the final minute to seal the win. “We know how good we can be and I think we just didn’t capitalize on the mistakes that they made and they capitalized on our mistakes,” Lacy said. “We played with them the whole game but when you don’t make the basketball plays that you need to make they’re going to capitalize, and they did.”