PULLMAN – There were varying degrees of familiarity for Washington State’s basketball team Saturday afternoon in a home finale against Oregon State.
There was the pure scoring of a senior forward who’s done it better than anybody else in the Pac-12 Conference this season, and did it better Saturday than he ever had in a WSU uniform.
On the opposite end of the familiarity spectrum were the shaky defense and sloppy ball movement that have been staples of each of the last four losses, and certainly did the Cougars no favors in a fifth.
A vintage scoring effort from Robert Franks, who was marvelous on his Senior Day, scoring 37 points on eight 3-pointers, couldn’t rescue the Cougars from another lackluster Pac-12 performance as the Beavers pulled away late for an 85-77 victory at Beasley Coliseum.
The loss guaranteed a fourth straight bottom-three finish for WSU (11-20, 4-14), which enters the conference tournament as a No. 11 seed and will face sixth-seeded Oregon on Wednesday night in Las Vegas. OSU (18-12, 10-8) locked up a top-four regular season finish for the first time under fifth-year coach Wayne Tinkle.
Before tip-off, the Cougars rolled out a crimson carpet for their three seniors. Fans clapped and roared for Franks as he walked out to the court with two family members and accepted a frame with his No. 3 jersey before posing for pictures.
WSU coach Ernie Kent prearranged for another senior, Viont’e Daniels, to make a brief appearance against the Beavers despite a concussion that’s now kept him out of four straight games. Tinkle and game officials agreed to let the Cougars take an injury timeout right after the tip-off, giving Daniels a chance to suit up and make the 53rd start of his career. Daniels was removed before the game began in earnest, and a chorus of cheers followed him off the court.
“(Wayne) agreed to do it, and agreed the game is more about moments like that,” Kent said. “For those kids who’ve played hard – to give them an opportunity to hold their head up and come off after being introduced one last time on their home floor.”
All the bells and whistles of Senior Day seemed to lift the Cougars, at least briefly, against an Oregon State team that needed a win to secure a first-round bye at next week’s conference tournament.
WSU played with pace on offense and purpose on defense, taking a 12-point lead nearly 10 minutes into the first half. Franks found his groove early, scoring six points in the first 1 minute, 45 seconds, 17 through the first 9:16 and 20 in the first half.
“I just wanted to go out there and give it everything I have one more time in Beasley,” Franks said.
Franks’ 3-point shot fell eight times, and from just about every spot on the floor. Franks converted on a four-point play in the first half. He hit another 3-pointer while being guarded tightly by OSU’s Tres Tinkle. Then, sitting on 32 points, he set his career high on an off-balance 3-pointer from the elbow that clanked off the backboard and into the hoop.
But as Franks was guiding the Cougars, the Beavers were getting a steady stream of points from Tinkle, who should join the WSU forward on the All-Pac-12 list Monday. The son of the OSU coach scored 26 points and added 12 rebounds, three assists and four steals.
Franks was a one-man wrecking team for the Cougars, but Tinkle had help from Stephen Thompson Jr., who matched his teammate with 26 points, and younger brother Ethan Thompson, who gave the Beavers another 17.
WSU led 43-38 at halftime, but the Beavers held the Cougars to 38 percent shooting in the second while they shot 53 percent.
OSU began to pull away with 10 minutes left and kept WSU scoreless for nearly 4 minutes, while turning the Cougars over on four consecutive possessions. WSU finished with 15 turnovers, giving the Cougars 78 over their past five games.
“When we play defense and play fast and share the ball, where everybody touches it – they don’t have to shoot it – in a possession, we are really good,” Kent said. “Because when you touch it, when you shoot it, you get a chance to dribble it, you don’t mind coming to the other end to play defense.
“But when you go up and down the floor three or four times and you don’t get a chance to even touch the ball, that’s hard. That’s hard to come down and say ‘I’m going to defend now’ when I don’t even feel like I’m involved on the offensive end.”
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