Cougs win: Hawkinson soars in first start

PULLMAN— On first glance, it was hard to say which was more noteworthy in Washington State's 80-68 win over Idaho State: DaVonte Lacy catching fire and looking like his old self during a second-half surge -- or Josh Hawkinson exploding for a game-high 26 points on his way to his second straight double-double. Check that, on further review, it's not that tough of a call.

As good as Lacy was in the second half, Cougar fans have come to expect games like Friday's 25-point outing from the senior guard -- he canned four three-pointers in the space of about six minutes, and a half dozen treys all told.

But what Hawkinson is doing as a second-year sophomore, including the 26-point, 15-rebound output on Friday night, has been completely unexpected.

This is a guy, after all, whose career high coming into the season was six points.

Yeah, but look at the competition level given that it was Idaho State, some will say. And they have a point. But in the season's first three games, including Friday night, Hawkinson has looked really smooth. His game has so much more polish that Cougar hoops fans in Beasley on Friday night could be forgiven if they were doing a double-take, wondering if this is the same guy.

In the Cougs' (1-2) first three games, the 6-10, 245-pound Hawkinson has put up seven, 14 and 26 points. And he's averaging 12.3 boards a night.

BUT HAWKINSON, LACY and the rest of the Cougs started slowly against Idaho State - the score was 2-2 after five minutes and Lacy in the first half had only four points and had picked up two quick fouls. Ernie Kent challenged Lacy at halftime. Whatever was said in the locker room, Lacy responded with 21 points over the final 20 minutes.

“We got after him pretty good at halftime, and as good players do, he responded," said Kent. "I thought he was much better in the second half, played with a lot more fire -- he was more aggressive and in attack mode more."

Until the second half on Friday, Lacy had shot a combined 7-28 (25 percent) from the floor this season. Sometimes, you just have to shoot your way out a slump. He finished the night 7-15.

“I don’t think it was anything different than I normally do. Literally everybody on the team just kept telling me to shoot, the next one’s going to fall, and they did a great job of finding me,” Lacy said when asked what adjustment he made between the halves.

At half, the Cougs led just 32-31. And the Cougars did not gain meaningful separation until 10:41 remained, when Brett Boese made a steal and Ike Iroegbu converted the layup at the other end to make the score 53-46.

From then on, WSU was never seriously threatened.

The 12-point win was the first for Kent at Washington State. But there were still a number of things that rankled.

Kent was displeased with Lacy and Dexter Kernich-Drew's slow starts. He also said the zone defense from the Bengals requires several successful shooting attempts to open it up.

“Your two captains, your two starters, your two leaders, cannot be a combined 2 for 11. I thought they both really were not playing with the type of energy and fire they needed to play with, and you can see that in the transition game where they really wouldn’t get out and run and put pressure on that team,” Kent said.

Kent said the game plan was to run hard against Idaho State to fatigue star Chris Hansen. It didn't work. He finished with 28 points on 10-of-18 shooting.

Washington State, save for Lacy, shot terribly from long range, starting 1 of 10 before a stretch in the first half where Boese, Hansen, and then Que Johnson connected. In the first half, the Cougars shot 3 of 17 from three-point range. In the second half, they were 6-16.

Forget about the 27.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc for a moment - it's hard to imagine Kent went into this one planning for his team to hoist up 33 treys. WSu allowed far too many point-blank buckets in the second half, when Idaho State shot 51.7 percent from the floor.

But there were far more bright spots than not, including the Cougs' work on the offensive glass. Indeed, Washington State dominated there all night.

The Cougars out-rebounded the Bengals 42 to 29, and 15 to 4 on the offensive end of the floor. The Cougs forced 10 turnovers, while committing nine of their own. And WSU outscored Idaho State 18-4 in points off those turnovers on Friday night.

Johnson chipped in 12 points, while point guard Ny Redding came off the bench to score 10.

“Ny’s a character, but I know one thing - he’s going to come to work every day," Lacy said. "And I think he’s starting to learn the game more and learn how to play at this level and (with) the speed he needs."

And then of course, there was Hawkinson, who shot 10 of 15, went 6-6 from the line and had two blocks while only picking up two fouls over his 37 minutes.

“Those are crazy numbers, no matter who you’re playing," Lacy said. "To go out there and put those numbers up, he’s playing really great this year... so we’re just looking forward to keeping it up the whole season and trying to build off it."

The Cougars next go on the road for the Great Alaska Shootout, with their first game vs. UC Santa Barbara scheduled for Thanksgiving (Nov. 27 at 9 p.m. PST, CBS Sports Network).

NOTABLE NOTES
  • Sophomore Brett Boese played a career high 17 minutes, had 3 points and 1 assist.

  • CF.C had guessed Hawkinson's start would mean Jordan Railey might come off the bench but Hawkinson took Junior Longrus' place instead. The starting five against ISU: Hawkinson, Railey, Lacy, Ike Iroegbu and Kernich-Drew. But only Hawkinson and Lacy also started the second half - they were joined by Redding, Johnson and Boese.

  • On the Friday before Thanksgiving break begins on campus, a sparse crowd of 2,138 turned out to watch the Cougs get their first win of the season. Kent said the crowds will come with the Cougs producing a quality product on the court.



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