STANFORD, Calif. – When Washington State took the floor for pregame warm-ups at Maples Pavilion, only eight players went through the customary layup lines, shooting drills and stretching routines.
Another contingent of Cougars, not much smaller in size, surrounded the perimeter of the court and looked on, wearing team-issued hoodies and sweatpants.
With three rotational players and a walk-on center all nursing concussions, WSU knew a shortened bench would provide a tall obstacle on the road against Stanford. And perhaps that thought infiltrated the Cougars’ collective headspace even before a basketball was tipped, because for the next 40 minutes, mighty Stanford threw one hefty punch after another at a WSU team that hardly looked like it wanted to be poked Thursday night in the Bay Area.
The Cardinal only showed mercy inside the final 20 seconds, when Kodye Pugh dribbled out the clock rather than hoisting a shot that would’ve put the home team over the 100-point marker. Still, Stanford delivered a healthy beating and dealt a historical loss to the Ernie Kent era at Washington State, drilling the Cougars 98-50 in front of an announced crowd of 3,139.
The 48-point loss denoted the largest margin of defeat of Kent’s tenure as the WSU coach – one that’s now five years and 152 games deep – beating out an 88-47 home loss to Utah in 2016-17. It was Stanford’s largest margin of victory in 12 years and the Cardinal’s most significant Pac-12/10 win in 19 years.
“Yeah this hurts, this hurts,” said WSU forward Robert Franks. “Now we have to fight through adversity again and let this one go and get ready for Cal.”
An 11-point night for the conference’s top scorer was just one of the stats that indicated how ugly things got for the Cougars.
WSU never held a lead and Stanford needed barely more than five minutes to race out to a double-digit advantage, going up 13-2 at the 14:46 marker. The Cardinal grabbed a 20-point lead, 28-7, just three minutes later and with 5:35 left, the advantage had ballooned to more than 30 points, at 43-11.
Stanford teetered on a 40-point lead in the first half and then finally got there on Cormac Ryan’s layup 3½ minutes into the second half.
The Cougars didn’t have the depth that would’ve been necessary to hang around with a Stanford team that had seven players come off the bench, while WSU was limited to three. Forward Jeff Pollard and guards Viont’e Daniels and Carter Skaggs would’ve helped keep Kent’s rotations fresh and might have altered the disparity in bench points – a category Stanford dominated, 58-16.
“It’s always big not having them, but we knew who we had,” Franks said. “We had eight guys and we had eight guys to roll with, so I wouldn’t use that as an excuse tonight.”
In the first matchup between these two, the Cougars were unable to combat Stanford’s steely front line, giving up 42 points in the paint, so the diminished depth only exacerbated those problems Thursday night.
“I thought Stanford, number one, played extremely well,” Kent said. “They’re extremely athletic, they’re long, they have a bunch of 6-8 guys. I felt like they sat on Robo (Franks) and really did a good job of denying him the ball and keeping it out of his hands.”
Stanford’s bigs were often able to score with WSU defenders draped on them, but the Cardinal also moved the ball fluidly to create open layups and dunks. The hosts scored 48 points in the paint and finished with a field goal percentage of 59.
“We just kept letting them get easy buckets after easy buckets and it kept piling up on us,” Franks said. “Then they started making shots and the game started opening up for them.”
The Cougars got their first glimpse this season of Stanford star KZ Okpala, who missed the game in Pullman with an injury. With a variety of dunks, 3-point shots and lay-ins Okpala pumped in 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting to lead all scorers. He also had eight rebounds.
“Man, he’s a great player,” WSU forward CJ Elleby said. “He’s real tough to guard on the drive.”
On a night that saw WSU shoot only 30 percent from the field (20-of-65), Elleby led the Cougars with 16 points, scoring 14 in the second half. Isaiah Wade had 14 points and seven rebounds for the Cougars.
WSU (11-17, 4-11) won’t have Pollard, Daniels or Skaggs back when it traveles to Berkeley for Saturday’s 4 p.m. game at Cal.
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