PULLMAN – Washington State basketball players are cognizant of the fact that they sit in the Pac-12’s basement, and it’s not much use reminding them of all the ways they’ve regressed since their golden month of November.
Yes, the Cougars (9-13, 1-9) know where they stand. While brief film reviews of their five-game Pac-12 skid might help correct a few errors, simply dwelling on the past won’t help them heal.
“We can look at tapes and see mistakes again and again and again, and we can correct them as best as we can,” WSU coach Ernie Kent said Tuesday during his weekly news conference. “… We’ve gotten to the point where we don’t let the players look at a lot of film. When you talk about going through the losses, you talk about academics, you talk about practice, you talk about rehab and then let’s sit in a dark room, turn the lights off and let you see all the negative stuff on the screen. That’s not a very good way to coach all the time. … They know they turned the ball over too much. I don’t need to tell them.”
Turnovers were fatal for the Cougars Sunday in an 88-78 home loss to then 25th-ranked Arizona State. WSU committed 18, leading to 34 Sun Devils points on the other end.
The Cougars believe, and with good reason, they could have staged an upset of ASU had they committed only a fraction of those turnovers. They were in command of the game early, leading by as many as eight points, and had the Sun Devils in a deadlock with 5 minutes, 53 seconds to play.
“We’re not that far off, either, as I look at tape and see the little things that we still need to constantly clean up,” Kent said.
“I definitely think we’re very close,” WSU forward Robert Franks said. … “We’re a couple missing things away from having a perfect game.”
After consecutive games against ranked foes, the degree of difficulty should at least become a tad easier for the Cougars, who head to Oregon for games against the 10th-place Oregon State Beavers (11-11, 3-7) and sixth-place Oregon Ducks (15-8, 5-5).
Neither has been overtly dominant this season, but both are formidable in their own venues, combining to go 21-6 at home. Corvallis’ Gill Coliseum and Eugene’s Matthew Knight Arena are two of the seven Pac-12 buildings in which the Cougars are winless in four years under Kent.
On Thursday, WSU will face Tres Tinkle for the first time since the redshirt sophomore was a true freshman. The son of Beavers coach Wayne Tinkle was hit hard by injury his first two seasons in Corvallis, missing 31 games, but he’s been fortunate to have a clean bill of health this season and leads OSU with 18 points per game and nearly seven rebounds.
“Very heady, very smart and he knows how to score,” Kent said of the Beavers forward. “It’s not just him when you look at when you need to do to Oregon State. We need to make sure we neutralize three or four players on that floor, too.”
Stephen Thompson Jr. averages 16.3 ppg and lanky big man Drew Eubanks contributes 12.6 points to go with 6.6 rebounds for the Beavers.
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