LOS ANGELES – The penultimate game of Washington State’s regular season really wasn’t much of a game at all.
The Trojans took a commanding lead early on and never gave it up in their 87-64 victory over the visiting Cougars on Wednesday.
WSU (13-16, 6-11 Pac-12) trailed by 10 points just 5 minutes into the game. They trailed by 20 at halftime. At one point in the second half they were down 29. After that, the Trojans might as well have started resting for their upcoming finale against Washington.
WSU only turned the ball over 14 times on Wednesday, but 11 of those came in the first half.
“We were really stagnant mentally in the game,” coach Ernie Kent told Matt Chazanow on the IMG postgame radio show. “We started to play out of it in the second half a bit, but by then we were out of it.”
Trojans point guard Jordan McLaughlin nearly had the program’s second triple-double but was pulled out of the game with 1:03 left and one rebound short. Daniel Hackett recorded USC’s only triple-double in 2007.
USC had a balanced attack with eight players scoring at least six points. McLaughlin was the game’s best player, with 16 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. Chimezie Metu, who had 29 points in the first meeting between the teams, continued to haunt the Cougars with 15 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.
The Trojans had a lot more at stake than the Cougars. USC (22-8, 9-8) is on the cusp of an NCAA tournament berth. The Trojans will likely be in the field with a win against the Huskies, and can improve their seeding with a good showing in the NCAA tournament.
Kent noted that the Cougars were likely fatigued by an intense travel schedule following Sunday’s late game against the Huskies.
The Cougars will probably finish ninth or 10th in the Pac-12 standings, and then play a similarly talented seventh- or eighth-placed team in their first game.
Sophomore forward Robert Franks led the Cougars with a career-high 20 points. Josh Hawkinson added 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
“I thought Viont’e Daniels and Robert Franks were really, really good in the game,” Kent said. “Particularly Robo, he had a great game against a very athletic team and showed flashes of how good he can be as we develop him down the stretch and get ready for next season.”
The Cougars will end their regular season on Saturday at No. 3 UCLA. That game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
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