PULLMAN – For the second time in a week, the Washington State men’s basketball team competed on its own floor and played a lackluster game that resulted in a loss against an inspired opponent.
This time it was the enthusiastic New Orleans Privateers who picked up a road win over a Pac-12 team, beating the Cougars 70-54 in Beasley Coliseum in front of 2,617 fans.
The Cougars (4-4) were outrebounded 36-20, gave up 12 second-chance points and, even though they had seven steals to UNO’s one, were outscored 12-4 on fast breaks.
“It’s just energy that’s holding us back,” WSU senior guard Ike Iroegbu said afterward.
WSU has played in front of nearly empty gyms all season, the listed attendance figures drastically overstating the number of actual fans in seats. While WSU looks able to take advantage of its recruiting advantages when its offense has early success, recent losses to San Jose State last Sunday and UNO on Saturday saw early offensive struggles lead to drudgery throughout the game.
“What little success we’ve had, I don’t think we’ve handled it well,” WSU head coach Ernie Kent said. “I just thought at the start of the game, if the ball doesn’t go down it seemed like it really determines what type of energy we play with the rest of the way. I just didn’t feel like we had a sense of urgency or energy.”
In the game’s early proceedings, scoring was so rare as to be effectively random. There was the inbounds play in which Malachi Flynn threw the ball over Derrien King’s head, prompting UNO’s Erik Thomas to attempt to intercept the pass. Thomas missed on his steal attempt and King calmly found the ball and stepped to the arc for an open 3-pointer.
The Privateers had some similar magic when Tevin Broyles banked in a contested 3-pointer as the shot clock expired, needing to adjusted the ball halfway through his shot to avoid Charles Callison’s block attempt.
The game was tied at 13 with 9:17 left in the first half when the Privateers figured out how to score, doubling their point total before the Cougars could respond.
“I just can’t blame it just on the crowd,” Kent said. “When you have an opportunity to close out, or block out, or get on the floor for a loose ball, that has nothing to do with the crowd. That has everything to do with your own sense of urgency and your sense of toughness.”
Broyles’ 3-pointer was followed by a Travin Thibodeaux jump shot and Jorge Rosa 3-pointer on consecutive possessions. Christavious Gill added five points on jump shots before the Cougars got a stop, and WSU spent the rest of the game trying unsuccessfully to get those points back.
The Privateers’ defense keyed on freshman point guard Flynn, who had scored 18 and 27 points in WSU’s last two games. Flynn finished with four points and took just seven shots.
Sophomore forward Robert Franks played well, scoring a career-high 16 points to lead the Cougars. Franks hit 1 of 4 3-point attempts but did the majority of his work inside, hitting all four of his shot attempts from inside the paint and heading to the line for seven free-throw attempts.
“I felt like my teammates made me very confident in practice to bang down low, and I’m trying to do that more on a daily basis,” said the 6-foot-7, 240-pound forward from Vancouver, Washington.
The Cougars were cold from the outside, making just 4 of 19 3-point attempts.