HOOPS: WSU shooting woes plumb new depths

THE COUGS SQUARED off against the broad side of a barn on Thanksgiving night in Alaska. The barn won. Curiously, though, if you were desperate to find some silver linings from a 71-43 first round drubbing in the Great Alaska Shootout, they really weren’t all that hard to find.

First, there was no quit despite trailing by 22 at the break and by as many as 31 late in the game. The Cougars played with high effort until the very end, especially on the defensive end.

Brett Boese came off the bench to score a team-high 13 points in 21 minutes, both career highs, with all his points coming in the second half on 5-of-10 shooting.

Finally, though the Cougs were outrebounded 46-35 and continue to have problems allowing offensive rebounds, they did good work themselves in that area, nabbing 12 offensive rebounds to UCSB’s 11.

But if you can’t hit open shots, (never mind those of the contested variety), you’re in for a long night.

And hours must have seemed like days to the Cougs on the offensive end of the floor. Their 12 first-half points tied for eighth fewest in a half by the Cougars since 1968.

Ernie Kent benched the team’s third leading scorer Que Johnson and freshman standout Ny Redding for the first half after both were late to a team meeting. Without them, WSU shot a stunning 3-of-33 (9.1 percent) from the floor in the first half, with zero points out of the backcourt.

But it would be inaccurate to say their absence was the reason the Cougs (1-2) couldn’t buy a bucket in the first half. Nor would it be true to say UCSB put the defensive clamps on WSU.

The Cougs had plenty of open looks -- they simply missed. Three-balls clanked, and several close-in shot attempts didn’t even draw iron.

“This game will gobble you up if you don’t play it the right way,” Kent told the Alaska Dispatch News after the game.

WSU was down 20-7 with 8:07 left in the first half and it got worse as the Cougs started forcing their shorts. They were 0-14 in the first half from beyond the arc.

DaVonte Lacy was among many who struggled to find his rhythm, finished the night hitting one of eight from the field. Lacy’s only field goal of the night was a three pointer from the corner early in the second half.

The second half was a different story for the Cougars, though. Redding made a difference in tempo, pushing the ball more often and utilizing the fast break. Redding played 17 minutes and dished six assists in the second half. And it was at least more competitive, with UC Santa Barbara outscoring the Cougars 37-31 over the final 20 minutes.

WSU also had trouble stopping senior guard Zaimico Harmon who scored a game high 17 points (7-11, 3-4 three-point shooting). UCSB senior center Alan Williams was just 4-13 but still caused the Cougs problems down in the post, finishing with 12 rebounds and 12 points in 25 minutes. Both Harmon and Williams got their bulk of playing time in the first half.

The Cougars play Rice in the consolation semifinal at 2 p.m. (no TV). If the Cougars win, they play the winner of Missouri State vs Alaska Anchorage on Saturday. If not, they get the loser of that matchup. Regardless, neither game is scheduled for TV broadcast.

  • Junior forward Junior Longrus finished with a career-high 9 points on 3-3 shooting in 15 minutes of play.

  • WSU’s starting lineup: Ike Iroegbu, DaVonte Lacy, Dexter Kernich-Drew, Junior Longrus, and Josh Hawkinson.

  • Kernich-Drew continues to struggle four games into the season. He shot 0-7 from the floor in 19 minutes of play, with two turnovers, one steal, one rebound and one personal foul.

  • UCSB shot 35.2 percent in the first half and still led 34-12 at the break. They finished the night shooting 47.5 percent from the floor, 47.1 percent from three-point range.

  • The Cougars shot 41.7 percent in the second half, 41.7 percent for the game, generated 10 assists and turned the ball over nine times. The bench scoring was close, with WSU holding a 28-26 edge.

  • Sophomore Josh Hawkinson had 13 rebounds. But WSU was outscored 26-12 in the paint. Hawkinson finished with three points, Jordan Railey with five.

  • With Redding sitting out for the first half, freshman guard Trevor Dunbar played 18 minutes and finished with four points, two assists and one steal.

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