Cougar bigs little help in loss to Vandals

PULLMAN — The depths to which the Washington State basketball program has sunken reached a new low Wednesday as the Idaho Vandals defeated the Cougars for the first time since 2002 and on Friel Court for the first time since 1989. WSU shot a woeful 16.7 percent from three-point range and Idaho pulled away in the second half to win 77-71. Cougar coach Ernie Kent questioned himself afterward.

“I thought we had great legs having giving them some time off, and we may have had legs but we lost our mental edge,” Kent said. “Maybe that’s my fault for giving them a little extra time, we should’ve practiced them through.”

After the Cougars played three games in three days last week at the Great Alaska Shootout, Kent have the team some time off upon returning to Pullman.

The sluggishness was evident early, as the Vandals jumped to a 14-2 lead after five minutes.

The Cougars (now 3-4) closed to within 32-31 at halftime, but the Vandals built a 14-point lead with a little more than eight minutes left in the game and never looked back.

WSU hit just 2 of 17 three-point attempts in that second half and 5 of 30 for the game. They shot 35 percent from the field overall.

“A lot of those shots were just wide open shots,” Kent said. “There’s not much you can do when you’re not shooting the basketball and some of that has to do with some mental slippage.”

With the Cougars struggling to shoot from the perimeter, sophomore guard Ike Iroegbu (pictured above) began attacking the paint.

“Coach Kent and the coaching staff kept telling me to keep on driving and try to get to the rim and to find my teammates for the drive and kick,” Iroegbu said.

Iroegbu finished the night with 13 points, fueled by 6-of-10 shooting from the field, and dished four assists, but fouled out with 9:22 left in the game and the Cougars trailing by 11.

He was part of a guard-heavy lineup for the Cougars. Big men Jordan Railey and Aaron Cheatum played a combined five minutes while Junior Longrus turned in 17. Collectively, they scored no points and pulled down five rebounds.

“We shouldn’t have had to go small in this game but we didn’t get a lot out of our bigs so we had to do that,” Kent said. “We’re going to be forced to do some things like that this year at certain times — go smaller line and things like that.

“We’ve got to get more (from the big men),” Kent said. “The game becomes such a touch and go game and critical to score the ball…when you’re getting point-blank layups and can’t convert then you have to make some changes … “With Jordan it’s confidence, with Junior it’s confidence and Cheatum it’s confidence,” Kent said. “Those guys have got to get on their games if we’re going to be successful this year, we need more out of our inside guys.”

Sophomore forward Josh Hawkinson was a lone bright spot in the Cougars’ front court. He finished with 16 points, a team-high 10 rebounds and had three blocks.

The game was Hawkinson’s third double-double of the season.

“Any loss at home hurts,” said WSU senior guard DaVonte Lacy, who scored 17 points, but was just 5-of-18 from the field. “You don’t want to lose at home and it’s very embarrassing to play like we did in front of our fans, I think we had a good turn out and it just hurts to not perform for them…to let the fans down it hurts a lot.” “Idaho is a great shooting team, Connor Hill shot it pretty well, Mike Scott made plays and the inside (of Idaho) played really well,” Lacy said. “I don’t want to take any credit from them, they played really well and we just got to get better.”

Hill and Scott each scored 19 points for Idaho while sophomore guard Sekou Wiggs finished with 12 points.

  • WSU freshman point guard Ny Redding finished with 10 points, marking his second consecutive double-figure scoring game.
  • The Cougars’ starting lineup consisted of Iroegbu, Redding, Lacy, Hawkinson, and Longrus. Lacy logged the most minutes (39), followed by Hawkinson (33) and Redding 32).
  • WSU freshmen guards Jackie Davis, and Trevor Dunbar did not play.
  • Lacy’s 17 points put him 7 points shy of moving into 21st on WSU’s career scoring list.
  • The Cougar will host UT-San Antonio this Saturday at noon before hitting the road for two games.

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