Kent's small-ball strategy produces big win

WASHINGTON STATE COACH Ernie Kent has preached time and time about the painstaking process of developing the WSU men’s basketball program. That process took a huge step forward on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Seattle as the Cougars outwilled Washington down the stretch and beat the Huskies 80-77. It was WSU's first win inside Hec Ed since Feb. 27, 2011.

“I’m real proud of this team,” Kent said. “This was a team I was told couldn’t defend; the numbers told you that the last couple years. Couldn’t shoot it; the numbers told you that the last couple years. We took them and put our arms around them; we let them empty their backpack. I’m just happy for them that they’re coming of age right now.”

The Huskies (11-4, 0-3) jumped on the Cougars (8-7, 2-1) early by taking a 9-2 lead four minutes into the game. However, junior guard Brett Boese came off the bench and delivered three 3-pointers that kept the Cougars in the game.

Washington State's go-to scoring duo of senior guard DaVonte Lacy and Josh Hawkinson combined for seven points in the first half. But a trio of Cougars picked up the slack in Boese, sophomore guard Ike Iroegbu and redshirt sophomore guard Que Johnson, as WSU pulled even at 37-37 by halftime. Boese and Johnson finished the half with a combined six 3-pointers, both going 3 of 3.

Entering the game the Cougars knew they would have a difficult task defending inside because of UW’s twin towers in 7-0 center Robert Upshaw and 6-9 senior Shawn Kemp Jr. Kent decided to play small ball for most of the game, which helped limit the effectiveness of Kemp Jr. and Upshaw.

For a majority of the second half, Kent played four guards, and a big man in Hawkinson. UW had no answers to defending WSU’s spread out attack and up-tempo offense.

“That’s the fastest that we’ve played,” Kent said. “That’s as fast as any Oregon team I’ve had.”

With 15:07 left in the second half, the Cougars took a 54-47 lead after Lacy hit a free-throw line jumper. Lacy began to find his game in the second half, when he scored 20 of his team-high 25 points.

With less than a minute left in the game and the Cougars milking a one-point lead, Kent called a timeout. WSU immediately went to work, as Hawkinson dove to the basket on the out-of-bounds play and converted a three-point play to put the Cougars up 74-70.

From there, it became a matter of trading point with the Huskies. Lacy hit four consecutive free throws to put WSU up 78-74, but UW's Mike Anderson responded with a 3-pointer to cut the lead to one with 15 seconds remaining. But Lacy came up big again, nailing two more free throws. Anderson missed a 3-point shot at the buzzer that allowed WSU to leave Seattle victorious.

Said Kent: “I’m real proud of guys like DaVonte Lacy, who's from over in this area, made the journey to Washington State, has not had a lot of success (at UW) and to come back here in his senior year and play that well and get a W.”

UW sophomore guard Nigel Williams-Goss did all he could to prevent a Cougar victory, hitting 13 of 22 shots and scoring 30 points.

  • -Starting lineup included Ny Redding, Ike Iroegbu, DaVonte Lacy, Josh Hawkinson, and Jordan Railey.

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