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Cougars edge Santa Clara as Callison’s block seals it

By Peter Harriman Correspondent

It was fitting it came down to this. In what Washington State University coach Ernie Kent hopes may be a culture-changing moment, Santa Clara’s Jared Brownridge and WSU’s Charles Callison took turns wresting fate from each other in the Cougars’ 69-68 win Saturday afternoon in Beasley Coliseum.

Brownridge propelled the Broncos to an 11-point second-half lead on four 3-point shots. He hit three of them over the Cougars’ Callison.

Callison, in turn, helped the Cougars climb back, scoring eight of his 14 points in a five-minute stretch late in the game. And with WSU leading by a point, Brownridge launched a last-second shot.

Callison blocked it.

Here is the original example of Kent’s new definition of “Couging it.”

After the game, Kent said he has been kept up nights by the characterization of snatching defeat from victory that has become attached to various examples of WSU futility over the past three decades.

“We’ve got to change that around, make it a positive thing,” he said.

A closing 16-4 run keyed by the defense is pretty positive.

“Good defense gave us a chance to run. We were able to get in more of a rhythm offensively,” said Kent.

“We are going to be in a lot of games like this where we have to pull the game out.”

As the Cougars set about climbing out of the 11-point hole, Kent said they were “poised. They understood what they needed to do. It wasn’t about getting rattled but getting right.”

Basketball shouldn’t be this hard. Sharpening a running chain saw might have been less aggravating than putting away the stubborn Broncos.

“It started on the defensive end. We knew we had to get stops. We knew we were down 11,” said Josh Hawkinson, who led WSU with 21 points. Before a sparse pre-Christmas crowd, the Cougs worked hard to shake Santa Clara, and Hawkinson is apparently going all in on Kent’s new definition of “to Coug.”

“It energized us the last eight minutes of the game when we went on a little run. It showed us what it could be when there’s a full crowd,” Hawkinson said.

Clifford’s two free throws with five seconds left gave WSU a slim edge at the break, 36-34. WSU had gone ahead early, 10-2, as Conor Clifford contributed in the low post with 8 points and tough defense. But the tempo of the game increased, and after the Broncos lost starting center Emmanuel Ndumanya for much of the half to a pair of early fouls, Santa Clara widened its offense and focused on perimeter shots.

Kent tolled off the Cougars who had a try at defending against Brownridge. The list included almost everyone who played but Clifford.

“You saw a fabulous player in Brownridge,” Kent said.

Hawkinson and teammates were special, too. As the Cougars set about grabbing the lead for good in the last three minutes, Hawkinson hit a tough shot in the lane and a free throw, and he scored again after an assist from Malachi Flynn. That had the Cougars trailing 66-62. With two minutes left Callison hit a three then scored again on a drive to nose the Cougars in front, 67-66. Ike Iroegbu got WSU’s final points on a clever stutter step drive.

Jarvis Pugh was able to close the gap for Santa Clara with a pair of free throws with about seven seconds to play. But the Broncos’ last chance on Brownridge’s failed long three attempt was also the start of Kent’s new “Couging” era when Callison caught up with the shot and knocked it awry.

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