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Washington State watches lead dwindle, pulls out win over Lewis-Clark State College

PULLMAN – The Washington State men’s basketball team had a brief courtship with disaster during the closing minutes of its 81-74 win over Lewis-Clark State College in an exhibition game Friday night.

The Cougars watched a 27-point second-half lead dwindle to single digits during the game’s final stanzas, doing just enough to keep the lead until the clock ran out on the Warriors’ comeback.

Self-inflicted errors hurt the home team over the final 10 minutes, in which LCSC outscored WSU 30-12. There were turnovers, such as an eight-second call on guard Ike Iroegbu and drives into the Warriors defense at the end of the shot clock that resulted in lost balls.

Perimeter defense appears to be a concern. LCSC took 36 3-pointers, too many of them wide open, and if the Warriors had been able to make more than one-third of them WSU would have probably lost the game.

The Cougars played with a deep bench on Friday, which coach Ernie Kent said contributed to the at-times jilted nature of the team’s performance. All 12 available players got at least six minutes, and 10 Cougars played 10 minutes or more.

“I wanted to play everybody in the game tonight, got some strange combinations out there,” Kent said. “It’s hard to fly in and out of games, be stiff, and jump back in there again but I wanted everybody to get on the floor so we can look at tape, and teach, and make corrections and things of that nature.”

WSU’s unexpectedly tense win over the NAIA team probably didn’t cause much second-guessing among the reporters and analysts who ranked the Cougars last in the Pac-12 by a wide margin.

But teams do lose these things, you know.

Prestigious babysitters of NBA talent such as Arizona, Michigan State, Michigan State and Syracuse have all lost exhibition games in the last decade. And while exhibitions game are at best poor predictors of a team’s future performance, they can be useful indicators of skilled but previously unknown individual talents.

In last year’s win over Azusa Pacific, Josh Hawkinson scored 24 points and collected 18 rebounds, foreshadowing a breakout season that would see the sophomore set a school record for double-doubles.

The Cougars debuted six new players on Friday – a seventh, center Connor Clifford, was held out with a knee injury – and the most intriguing performance was delivered by Charles Callison, a junior college transfer.

The 6-foot guard awakened a sleepy crowd with two dunks early in the game, the second of which was the conclusion of an alley-oop pass that did not fly especially close to the rim.

Callison, who has earned praise from coach Ernie Kent mostly for his on-ball defense in the preseason, also displayed a nifty jump shot, finishing with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Iroegbu took on the role of distributor, dishing seven assists to go along with nine points.

And Hawkinson predictably led the team in scoring and rebounding with 29 points and nine boards.

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