SEATTLE – Washington State brought defense that had not been seen from the Cougars in two months to Wednesday’s game against Washington. The visitors brought energy befitting a regular-season ending rivalry game and a breakout game from Conor Clifford, who made nearly every shot he took.
They passed the ball as well as they have in the Ernie Kent era.
And yet the Cougars were run out of Hec Edmundson Pavilion in the 97-91 loss, reduced to sacrificial victims to the 7,655 fans who came to worship at the alter of Andrew Andrews.
Washington (17-13, 9-9 Pac-12) gave a pregame Senior Night ceremony for Andrews befitting the program’s only senior, and a player who is now its No. 7 all-time leading scorer.
And in return he gave the Huskies a show not seen in Seattle in decades, scoring a career-high 47 points, taking on WSU’s entire defense and winning over, and over, and over again. No Division I player has scored more points this season, and he ranks No. 2 in school history for single-game scoring.
“He was my vote for Pac-12 Player of the Year,” Kent said. “I thought he did just a terrific job of handling this group of freshmen. Early in the year they were fantastic, until they kind of ran out of gas a little bit, as freshmen do. But his performance this year, his leadership all the way up to this last game my hat’s off to him.”
Andrews’ day included a four-point play, multiple heat checks and a pair of broken ankles belonging to a Cougar to whom it would be cruel to name here after an Andrews crossover knocked him backwards, giving him a great view for watching the ball fall through the net.
So much of the second half was spent with the Huskies trying to get Andrews the school record of 49 points that WSU was able to whittle a 27-point lead down to just seven. The Portland native received three curtain calls, as well as bows from the student section throughout the game.
WSU fell behind 10-2 early, but battled back to take the lead for much of the first half. The Cougars assisted on their first 14 baskets and finished with 25 assists, the most in Pac-12 play this season.
“My guys battled again,” Kent said. “There’s no quit in this team.”
The game’s critical stretch an 8-0 run early in the second half in which UW stretched its lead from a comfortable 11 points to a lock-safe 19 was all Andrews.
Andrews nailed a 3-pointer, which in and of itself is no surprise the senior point guard ranked No. 5 in the conference with 65 made 3-pointers entering Wednesday’s game.
He’s also the Pac-12’s scoring leader – his 20.3 points per game heading into the contest was nearly three points better than Utah’s Jakob Poeltl, his closest competitor. Because of his scoring prowess he exerts quite a bit of gravity, pulling defenders toward him.
One trip down the court after that first 3-pointer, which gave him 25 points just three minutes into the second half, two WSU defenders came to guard Andrews, who flipped the ball up for UW forward Marquese Chriss, who finished with a powerful dunk.
Though much of the second half was spent chasing Bob Houbregs’ school-record 49 points set in January 1953, Andrews checked out for the final time, to a standing ovation, with 2:59 left in the game. He then returned for the final minute, once WSU forced a backcourt violation after cutting UW’s lead to 10 points.
To get his 47 points, Andrews was 13-for-22 shooting, including 5-for-7 from behind the 3-point line, and shot 14-for-15 on his free throw attempts. He also dished out four assists and collected six rebounds.
Andrews’ exceptional play overshadowed a superb game played by Clifford, a 7-foot junior college transfer who has been a part-time starter for the Cougars this season. Clifford tied a career-high with 18 points, making 8-of-10 shot attempts.
“We’re a lot bigger than they are, all across the board,” Clifford said. “We were definitely trying to pound it inside.”
Junior forward Josh Hawkinson, playing close to his native Shoreline, had a similarly efficient game, scoring 23 points while making 9-of-14 shots, along with 17 rebounds.
He tied his own school record with 20 double-doubles this season, a record he can break next week at the Pac-12 tournament.
But the frontcourt duo could not come close to overcoming Andrews’ big night, and the Cougars (9-22, 1-17) lost their 16th consecutive game. The last time WSU had a longer losing streak was the 1989-90 season, when the Cougars fell in 18 consecutive contests.
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