Cougs out-sprint Ducks in a hoops track meet

PULLMAN -- First it was the road, now home. It doesn't seem to matter, as the magic continues for Washington State and its journey in Pacific-12 men's basketball this season. In a game Thursday night that featured 23 lead changes, 18 ties, 207 combined points and overtime, the Cougars pulled out a 108-99 win over Oregon in Beasley Coliseum.

“What’s really impressive about this is we only have three seniors and all the young guys…they’re playing with high character and confidence in late game situations,” WSU senior guard DaVonte Lacy said. “I don’t know if we’ve had that in the past -- we’ve had some close games and we lost some, we won some - we felt confident going into these games.”

Though WSU’s scoring trio of Lacy, sophomore forward Josh Hawkinson, and sophomore guard Ike Iroegbu combined for 70 points against the Ducks (12-5, 2-2), an unsung hero in the win for the Cougars (9-7, 3-1) was junior guard Brett Boese. The Spokane native scored a career-high 16 points, and was clutch from 3-point range, hitting 4 of 6.

“He played 31 (minutes) at Washington and 30 (minutes) tonight and a guy that was buried on the bench last year and all he does is give you everything in his tank,” coach Ernie Kent said. “He’s not the fastest, he doesn’t jump the highest but he plays so hard and I thought his shots tonight were big…those threes he hit.”

Boese’s biggest three of the game came with 1:45 left in regulation with the Cougars trailing by two points, a shot that gave the Cougars a 91-89 lead.

Washington State had the ball for the final possession of regulation. Withy less than 10 seconds left to play, Lacy received the ball and drove to the basket, hoping to draw a foul. Instead, there was no call, the shot missed the mark and the game headed to overtime.

“You feel contact on every play, but (the referee) didn’t call it so we had to go into overtime,” Lacy said.

The Cougars outscored the Ducks 14-5 in overtime, which improved WSU's league record to 3-1.

“We just talked about playing hard (in overtime),” Iroegbu said. “We knew (Joseph) Young was going to shoot the ball, so when he shot the ball we just made sure that we had to box out and get the ball - secure it, take care of it and if they fouled us - hit our free throws.”

Iroegbu finished with 20 points, and handed out five assists. Though Iroegbu started the game playing off the ball, there were multiple times when he pushed the ball up the floor or dribbled through the Oregon defense to find the open man.

Though Iroegbu distributed the ball well, Kent said he still wants him playing off the ball.

“He’s passing so well because he’s off the ball,” Kent said. “What we’ve done is free him up, and when you free him up, you can bring him back.”

“A lot of what Ike is doing is in transition where we get out and run,” Kent said. “So I like the fact that we can play him and Ny (Redding) together - it makes us faster, quicker, it gives us an opportunity to start the game really fast with him on the wing and then you bring him back to the ball.”

Kent added that Iroegbu’s learning to play better off the ball.

After winning two consecutive games on the road, the WSU fan base showed up for the first conference home game of the season.

“It seems like with this team, the bigger the stage, the better they’re starting to play and If that building continues to be on fire like that with the students coming back and the energy they provided -- The energy that came from that community sitting behind my back -- there’s so much more basketball in us and you’ve seen a team that’s really growing up before your eyes,” Kent said.

The attendance at Beasley Coliseum against the Ducks tallied 3,584.

“It was huge…every time we can get a crowd like that it’s really going to be beneficial for the success of our program,” Hawkinson said. “They came out in full force today and cheering us on…were rowdy to the other team so it helps us tremendously.”

The Cougars play host to Oregon State on Saturday at 6 p.m. The game is televised on Pac-12 Networks.

“For us on Saturday if things fall in line we’re no worse than third coming out of Saturday but you can come out of Saturday in first place possibly if things fall in line,” Kent said. “You’re talking about a team going from worse to first in 10 months. That’s pretty amazing to me and that’s a credit to my staff and that’s a credit to those men in that locker room and how they’ve bought in to what we need for them to do to be successful that’s pretty impressive.”

  • -Hawkinson finished the game with 14 points, 13 rebounds, giving him his 10th double-double of the season.

  • -Lacy finished with 24 points and passed Derrick Low for No. 13 on WSU’s all-time scoring list.

  • -This was the first time Ernie Kent has coached against his alma-mater, Oregon.

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