Cougs enter Pac-12 play on positive note

WASHINGTON STATE HAS NOT had much success shooting this season. But that changed Sunday as the ball often found the bottom of the net for the Cougars during their 90-83 win against UC Davis. WSU connected on 60 percent of its shots during the first half — and 11 of 19 attempts from beyond the three-point arc for the game — en route to its second consecutive win.

That shooting percentage was well above the Cougars' season average of 42.4 percent. It was no surprise that Washington State's two leading scorers this season, DaVonte Lacy and Josh Hawkinson, were the two high scorers for the team. Lacy finished with 22 and Hawkinson added 18, but they received some support from 7-footer Jordan Railey, as well.

"I think Jordan is really starting to find himself," Kent said. "I thought he did a nice job in both of these games. What I see in Jordan is a guy playing with a lot more confidence now."

Railey has averaged 3.5 points per game this season, but he produced 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting against UC Davis. The redshirt senior center also grabbed five rebounds, following up his 12-point, six-rebound performance against San Jose State.

He was among four players that finished in double figures in scoring for the Cougars. Que Johnson (pictured above) was the fourth player as he scored a season-high 14 points for Washington State. He has averaged 5.3 points per game this season.

"I don't think he's an off-the-bench guy," Kent said. "I think he's a guy that could be a starter as long as he continues to come because he has a tremendous offensive game and he's athletic. He just really needs to dig in defensively and a little bit more movement offensively. The catch-and-shoot, he's got that part figured out. There's another piece to the game that he has to put to his game, and if he understands that, he has the chance to be a special player."

It looked scary early as the Cougars turned the ball over on their first possession of the game. They also missed their first three shots of the game. But when Hawkinson hit a 3-pointer to put WSU on the board and to put the team ahead 3-2, the Cougars never looked back.

The Cougars shooting prowess helped them overcome their turnover issues. Point guard Ny Redding committed eight, while Lacy added five. WSU finished with 19 turnovers and was outscored 25-19 in points off of turnovers.

"I think he left his game or his mind at home over the break and usually that happens with freshmen when they go home and they relax a little bit and then they've got to come back and you've got to get them back to where they're playing at a high level," Kent said. "That's way too many turnovers for him — and he knows that — and I'm sure he's going to beat himself up. I don't need to do it. I'll just put my arm around him, show him some tape and get him back."

The Cougars led by as many as 22 points in the first half, and the Cougars' shooting was so strong early that they easily overcame scoring runs by the Aggies. UC Davis surged for an 8-0 run toward the end of the first half and they finished the first period by making their last seven shots.

After about two minutes had passed in the second half, the Aggies did threaten to close the gap with a convincing 7-0 run, timed perfectly with a WSU scoring drought that lasted for almost three minutes.

The Aggies played rejuvenated basketball in the second half and challenged WSU to continue its scoring dominance while still defending at the other end. The Cougars led 46-32 after the first half ended, but UC Davis brought the deficit down in the second half to as little as eight with 14 minutes, 41 seconds, remaining in the game. A 3-pointer by UC Davis with 3 seconds remaining cut the deficit to seven, but at that point, it was far too late.

"I loved the energy in the first 8 to 10 minutes of the game," Kent said. "I thought we were really good. I thought we gave up way too many buckets in this game for my liking because just because you get a big lead, the system doesn't change, whether you're up 20 or down 20. You still play hard, you play smart, you defend, you do things right. We'll look at tape and I think they'll see they had a lot of breakdowns on the defensive end, particularly when you've got the big lead because guys start to get a little bit greedy and want to get more scoring, and they lost their focus on the defensive end of the floor."

But the Cougars reeled off an 8-0 run of their own that began with 13:48 left in the game and continued until the 12:19 mark when UC Davis finally ended the run. The Cougars also went on another run toward the end of the game, and this time the roles were reversed as UC Davis was on a scoring drought for close to three minutes.

This concluded the nonconference portion of the schedule as WSU enters Pac-12 play at noon Friday at Stanford.

  • Hawkinson recorded his fourth consecutive double-double and he now has seven this season.

  • UC Davis senior Corey Hawkins scored a game-high 29 points on 12-of-22 shooting, keeping the gas pedal on for the Aggies. Two of his teammates also scored in double figures. Hawkins, who started his collegiate career at Arizona State, is the son of former Seattle Sonics shooting guard Hersey Hawkins.

  • The Aggies made 12 steals compared to the Cougars, who snagged seven.

  • Washington State dominated on the glass, outrebounding UC Davis 34-23 on Sunday. The Cougars outscored the Aggies 10-6 in second-chance points.

  • 1,401 people turned out for the game with most students gone for winter break.

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