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WSU basketball looks lethargic in loss to San Jose State

PULLMAN – A lethargic loss in front of a miniscule crowd on Sunday was most troubling for how familiar it all felt for the Washington State men’s basketball team. The Cougars gave San Jose State an 88-76 win in Beasley Coliseum in the same manner as so many of their losses last season, when there were oh so many losses.

Superior height, athleticism and, in many respects, talent kept the Cougars competitive with the Spartans for much of the game, though it was clear SJSU (2-3) was the more inspired team.

But when WSU (3-3) made its run early in the second half and it wasn’t enough to take control of the game, the Cougars folded and the Spartans spent the last 10 minutes or so hanging on to their first win over the Cougars since 1991.

The announced attendance was 2,317.

“I felt when we came into the game we were ready to play, but as you saw from the beginning a slow start and it went downhill from there,” WSU’s Josh Hawkinson said. “That’s something we struggled with a lot last year and that was one of our main emphasis was getting off to fast starts to propel ourselves.”

Five different players scored in double figures for the Spartans, who were led by forward Ryan Welage’s career-high 20 points.

At halftime, WSU coach Ernie Kent implored his team to play with greater energy and focus. Then the Cougars turned the ball over on their first offensive possession of the second half, then gave up an alley-oop on a set play during their first defensive possession.

“I expect more out of certain guys on this team who have been here a little longer, who were with us last year,” coach Ernie Kent said. “To see them come out of the locker room flat – and then get going and get back into the game a little bit – then mistake, mistake, mistake, mistake.

The Cougars were outrebounded 50-39 by the smaller team and gave up 16 points off 15 offensive rebounds.

The Cougars missed opportunities to cut into the lead by giving up offensive rebounds on free throw attempts, by turning the ball over on inbounds plays that led to breakaway layups for the Spartans, by being outscored in the paint by 10 points despite their size advantage.

The loss overshadowed an encouraging performance by starting point guard Malachi Flynn, a freshman who scored a career-high 18 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field, which included his making 3-of-4 3-pointers.

Hawkinson led the Cougars with 19 points and also had 12 rebounds, giving him his 45th career double-double, which is the second-most in school history.

“We have to create more, we have a very important stretch of home games before we get on the road for Kansas State,” Kent said. “We just have to get back to playing our kind of basketball, and we’re not there right now. It’s not X’s and O’s, it’s a sense of bonding, togetherness and passion.”

The Cougars will have their next chance at home on Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. against Utah Valley.

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