KENNEWICK – Ike Iroegbu spurred a second-half charge for the Washington State men’s basketball team, which fended off a sweet-shooting Central Washington University squad to emerge with an 81-76 win in the Toyota Center on Tuesday night.
Iroegbu scored 14 of his 15 points in the second half despite taking a hard spill early in the half on a drive to the basketball. The senior guard did most of his work at the rim, routinely blowing past Wildcats defenders on the fast break and finishing at the cup.
“I’m hurting right now, I’ll get some ice on it,” Iroegbu told Matt Chazanow on the Cougars postgame radio show. “After I fell I went back into the locker room and gathered myself. You could say that foul really woke me up.”
WSU trailed 46-40 at halftime, and the teams traded leads through much of the second half. The Cougars (2-0) went up for good on the Division II school when Iroegbu hit a layup to make it 55-53 with 11:50 in the game.
The Cougars built an 11-point lead in the second half, but a pair of alumni of Rainier Beach High in Seattle kept the Wildcats in the game. Fuquan Niles dominated WSU inside, scoring 12 points and pulling down 16 rebounds.
Naim Ladd, the 5-foot-7 cousin of former WSU hooper Mike Ladd, who also played at Rainier Beach, scored 12 points. And the Wildcats were led by 24 points from Dom Hunter.
Four WSU players scored in double digits. Freshman Malachi Flynn and senior post Josh Hawkinson led the way with 18 points apiece, while Iroegbu and Viont’e Daniels had 15 and 10, respectively. Most impressively, Flynn had just one turnover despite playing 32 minutes in his second game at point guard.
Hawkinson also had 12 rebounds, giving him his second double-double in as many games and 42 for his career.
The Cougars shot 50 percent from the field but made just 4 of 14 3-pointers.
Next up the Cougars travel to the Virgin Islands to play in the Paradise Jam. They will begin play on Friday against No. 22 Creighton, which beat No. 9 Wisconsin on Tuesday.
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