A SENIOR DAY TO REMEMBER ON THE PALOUSE

THE WAY THE first half was going, maybe it should have been called Sophomore Day -- Josh Hawkinson and Ike Iroegbu were on fire for Washington State early against Colorado. But it would be senior guard DaVonte Lacy who coaxed in a last second jumper to send the game into overtime. And Lacy and his two fellow Cougar seniors were just getting warmed up.

Colorado didn’t know what hit 'em.

In the first minute of the extra period, the three WSU seniors took control. Dexter Kernich-Drew drilled a trey. Jordan Railey pulled off a monster block on a would-be Colorado dunk. DaVonte Lacy then hit another 3-pointer to put WSU up 83-77 just 45 seconds into overtime.

WSU hit their free throws the rest of the way and finished off the regular season with a 96-91 victory over Colorado, the Cougars' seventh Pac-12 win this season. With the win, WSU is the ninth seed in the Pac-12 tournament and will face No. 8 seed Cal on Wednesday at noon for the right to face No. 1 Arizona.

But Ernie Kent was more focused on his seniors after the win in the post-game interview on IMG than about the upcoming tourney.

“For Jordan Railey… he’s (been) one of the best big men coming down the stretch in the conference… I’m really proud of him. Dexter Kernich-Drew, to play that well in front of his mom and sister and to save his best for last… he’s been incredible. And then DaVonte Lacy… he stayed and represented his school. All three of those guys passed the torch,” said Kent.

Later, Kent did look ahead a little and said he's packing five suits for the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas.

"We plan on staying awhile," said Kent.

ON SATURDAY, the three seniors scored the Cougs’ first eight points in overtime and 10 of 17 overall. With the late push, Lacy, Kernich-Drew, and Railey combined to score 46 of the Cougars’ 96 points.

It was, however, all about a crimson sophomore duo in the first half -- Josh Hawkinson had 18 points on 9-10 shooting and Ike Iroegbu dished seven first-half assists to go along with his eight points.

WSU then struggled mightily to involve Hawkinson and DaVonte Lacy after the break, although Lacy’s lay-in to put the Cougs up 65-59 also propelled him past Brock Motum into fifth on WSU's all-time scoring list. Hawkinson didn't attempt a shot until about 10 minutes had elapsed in the second half, something Kent explained by saying Colorado focused heavily on taking Hawkinson away after the break.

Still, after letting Thursday's game against No. 13 Utah slip away, Hawkinson followed it up with yet another double-double with 21 points and 10 boards. And Iroegbu notched a career-high 11 assists to go along with 18 points.

"This is also a credit to Coach (Ken) Bone and his staff. I saw a team (last year) that regardless of what they went through, they always came back to play the next game. And that's exactly what this team did," said Kent.

Colorado killed the Cougs in the paint (52-36) but six Cougs scored in double figures -- offsetting the Colorado onslaught of 15 offensive rebounds, and 32- and 26-points by Colorado forward Josh Scott and guard Askia Booker.

Lacy and Kernich-Drew had 17 points apiece while Railey had 12. Que Johnson was the unsung glue in light of the seniors’ overtime performances – he had 11 points on 4 of 6 shooting, seemingly every one of them coming at critical junctures. It won’t show in the box score but Junior Longrus did some awfully good work on the defensive end and was one of the main reasons Colorado could never go on an extended run, especially once Railey got into foul trouble.

DESPITE LEADING virtually the entire game, the Cougars found themselves trailing in the final minutes. Colorado all game long was looking to go fast and catch the Cougs napping in transition, and they finally tipped the scales late. But Lacy’s last-second bucket in regulation – it used seemingly all of the rim before dropping through the nylon – signaled the start of the only decisive run for either team after halftime.

WSU shot 50 percent from the field including a sizzling 61 percent in the first half. But defensively, the Cougars allowed Colorado to shoot 51.4 percent (59 percent in the second half) with much of that a result of the 15 Colorado offensive rebounds. For the game, Colorado out-rebounded the Cougs 40-30.

WSU was in the bonus and double bonus exceedingly early in the second half, and Colorado soon joined them. But neither team could draw many fouls the rest of the way and take full advantage. Most importantly, though, the Cougs shot 17 of 20 from the charity stripe (85 percent) on the day.

WSU had 18 assists to Colorado’s eight. The Cougs also won the turnover battle, 14-11. And the Cougars shot 50 percent (9 of 18) from 3-point land while Colorado was 2 of 13 (15 percent).

NOTABLE NOTES:
• Hawkinson's double-double was his 19th of the season, extending his Cougar single-season record.

• The six Cougars in double figures was the first time that had happened this season.

• Lacy now has 1,539 career points -- he's 24 points away from Don Collins (1977-80) in fourth place.

• Iroegbu's double-double was the first of his career -- it was also the Cougars’ first point-assist double-double of the season.

• Longrus has averaged 6.5 rebounds over the past two games.

• The Cougars hit 13 consecutive shots spanning the first and second halves.

• For the second time this season, the Cougars attempted 0 free throws in the first half.

• The Cougars are now 3-0 in overtime games this season and have outscored opponents 48-29 in overtime periods this season.


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