Kent hopes Arizona rout is a future blueprint

PULLMAN — Though painful for Washington State, Sunday's 86-59 loss to No. 7 Arizona wasn't a complete bust. Ernie Kent and his Cougars got a up-close look at what a premier Pacific-12 Conference program looks like. Kent recalls a similar experience during his days at Oregon when then coach Lute Olson's Wildcats blew out the Ducks.

“I remember telling my staff (at Oregon) this is where we need to get to and I believe it was like two years later we won the Pac-10 Championship. (We) had a chance to compete with teams at that level and that caliber because that’s a lot of skill set and a lot of talent and obviously an excellent coach,” Kent said. “It’s a whole lot of continuity in place - recruits know who they are, the winning’s in place, the fan base is in place. So for us to one day get there to be a championship program they sure give you an idea of what it needs to look like.”

Washington State put up a fight early, trailing 8-6 heading into the first media time out. But it was all Arizona (22-3, 10-2) from there. The Wildcats dominated the Cougars (11-14, 5-8) in all phases. Arizona’s on-ball pressure defense prevented the Cougars from getting in rhythm on offense. The Wildcats went on a 36-8 run, at one point blanking WSU for nearly seven minutes.

“I think we relied on them (jumpers) too much, and once they didn’t hit, Arizona capitalized and scored when we didn’t score,” Lacy said. “There had to be a stretch in there, eight or something minutes, where we didn’t even hit a field goal. We can’t do that when we play against a really good team. You can’t have those lapses.”

The Cougars hit 1 of 11 from 3-point range in the first half. Cougar senior guard Dexter Kernich Drew said it was more on WSU, not Arizona.

“I don’t really want to come out here and say it was them pressuring us. We were getting pretty good looks,” Kernich-Drew said.

After hitting 1 of 6 from the field in the first half, Kernich-Drew found his shot in the second half. He hit 5 of 6 after halftime and finished with a team-high 20 points.

“I’m happy for that the third game in a row he played with tremendous confidence,” Kent said of Kernich-Drew. “He put up numbers tonight even though they were late in the game. The score had gotten away from us, but I was still proud of the way he did that.”

The Wildcats made their living in the paint against the Cougars, outscoring WSU 46-12 inside. The Cougars had no answer for the duo of Arizona junior center Kaleb Tarczewski and junior forward Brandon Ashley. Each scored 17 points.

Senior center Jordan Railey said what makes Ashley and Tarczewski tough to defend is their ability to double up.

“You can’t rely on help. Pretty much one on one in the post and then trying to front. But it’s hard for guards to be in help side, just because they have good shooters like Gabe York and stuff on the opposite side ready to shoot the ball. It’s just a tough match-up overall,” Railey said. “We also got to play better and grind harder.”

Sophomore guard Ike Iroegbu struggled to find a rhythm in the game. Iroegbu missed multiple easy layups and shot 0 of 4 on the way to a scoreless night.

“He’s not played well,” Kent said. “We’ve got to get him back on track again. Because we’re going to need him next weekend and obviously again having the opportunity to close out the season this year on a really positive note.”

Though this is another blowout loss the Cougars have suffered this season, Kent said he’s not worried about the game having a hangover effect going into the next game.

“You just move on from this game,” Kent said. “We don’t see them again unless we’re fortunate enough to be in the championship game of the Pac-12 Tournament or maybe somewhere along the line of a match-up, so you just kind of move on from the game. You don’t get up, you don’t get too down. You just get ready for the next one and it’s more important for us just to find ourselves and get back on our games again this week.”

The Cougars play host to Washington (14-11, 3-10) at 5:30 p.m. Sunday The game is televised on ESPNU.

“This is a rival game, you throw records out the window,” Kent said. “Just the energy that goes into these (games) we’ll get a completely different team over here. Very similar to when Cal came here and kind of found themselves and got rolling on us. We need to make sure we’re ready to play in a big rival game.”

  • Starting lineup included Ike Iroegbu, DaVonte Lacy, Dexter Kernich-Drew, Josh Hawkinson, Jordan Railey.

  • Freshman guard Trevor Dunbar, freshman guard Jackie Davis and junior Aaron Cheatum all saw action against Arizona.

  • Davis scored his first points in Pac-12 play against the Wildcats.

  • Attendance was 5,331.

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