Game gives Cougs 'things we need to clean up'

TWENTY-TWO turnovers — 16 of them unforced — is bad enough. Layer in 19 of 54 shooting from the field and 17 offensive rebounds surrendered and you have the recipe for a double-digit loss. “This (game) gives us some things we need to clean up,” Washington State head coach Ernie Kent said after his team’s 65-52 season-opening loss at UTEP on Friday.

After an early tie, the closest the Cougars came to the Miners was 36-32.

UTEP’s offensive rebounds aside, the problem was not with the Cougar defense — it was “good enough” to win, Kent said on the Cougar Radio Network. No, the issue was at the other end of the court. “We had looks, we had shots, we didn’t get our legs underneath us.”

Leading the miss parade was No. 1 offensive weapon DaVonte Lacy, who hit just 3 of 12 field goals. Ike Iroegbu was 4 of 11 and Josh Hawkinson 3 of 10, while Dexter Kernich-Drew got off just four shots and missed them all.

The Cougs shot 35 percent from the field and 28 percent (6 of 21) from downtown. UTEP had similar numbers but they took nine more shots and 16 more free throws than the Cougars

The speed of the game, with both teams trying to push the ball, “shocked our players,” Kent said. Nonetheless, he said he liked the way his team battled on the road in front of more than 10,000 hostile fans.

“Baby steps — it’s a process,” he said.

Lacy led the Cougars in scoring, with 15 points, followed by Iroegbu and Que Johnson (pictured above) with 10 each. Johnson also posted a team-high 11 rebounds, giving him the first double-double of his college career.

UTEP was led by Vince Hunter, who scored 14 points and pulled down 16 rebounds.

Of the three Cougar rookies who played, Kent said JC transfer post Aaron Cheatum (2 points, 1 rebound) was “tough, strong, physical,” in 12 minutes of playing time, while guards Ny Redding (18 minutes, 8 points, 5 assists and 4 turnovers) and Trevor Dunbar (4 minutes, no stats) “have to learn they’re not in high school anymore — it’s an educational process …”

NOTABLE:
  • The Cougars will now travel to Forth Worth on Monday for a 5 p.m. tip against TCU — a team that doesn’t push the ball like UTEP but is bigger and stronger.
  • Lacy, Iroegbu and Hawkinson led the Cougars in minutes played, each with between 30 and 36.

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