WSU defeats NAU: Ernie Kent calls freshman guard Viont'e Daniels 'a blessing' after Cougars' opening-night victory

WASHINGTON STATE coach Ernie Kent said freshman guard Viont'e Daniels' lights-out debut as a Cougar was a surprise only to fans, not teammates or coaches. "He's being doing that since he got here in the summer," Kent said following his team's 82-70 season-opening victory over Northern Arizona at Friel Court on Friday.

"He shoots well, he runs the floor hard, plays defense -- it's been a blessing to have him here," Kent told the Cougar Radio Network.

Kent's praise was well earned. Daniels drilled all five of his 3-point attempts and matched Josh Hawkinson for the team lead in scoring, with 15 points. The only miss he had on the night was from inside the arc. He also grabbed four rebounds and dished a couple of assists.

Daniels, from Federal Way, earned state player of the years honors last season, but WSU was the only school in the Pac-12 to offer him a scholarship. His 15 points is the best by a Cougar in his debut since JC transfer Faisal Aden scored 18 points against Southern In November 2010.

Hawkinson pulled down 11 rebounds to notch his first double-double of the season. He had a school record 20 of them last season.

Kent pointed out that when the Cougars built their lead to 18 points at one juncture of the first half, Hawkinson had contributed just a couple of buckets. "That tells you we have other weapons," Kent said. In the second half, though, he said he kept calling Hawkinson's number and the 6-10 junior "went to work."

Que Johnson and Renard Suggs both added 11 points for the Cougars. Suggs, who grabbed five boards, also was involved in the highlight of the night, lobbing the ball toward the rim for Valentine Izundu to slam home.

Kent said Suggs "has the opportunity to be special."

Valentine Izundu, a defensive specialist, connected on all three of his shots and finished with seven points, but more notably he had four blocks on the night. "He's a difference maker," said Kent, noting that in addition to blocks, Izundu altered several shots

The Cougs had seven blocks in all, one shy of their high last season. Freshman Robert Franks' stat line below doesn't show it, but he also was a defensive presence in the win.

Sophomore guard Ny Redding led the Cougars in assists with five. WSU had 20 assists on the night on 31 field goals. The Cougs also notched 11 steals, but committed 18 turnovers.

Washington State led 24-6 after seven minutes and 47-34 at the half. Northern Arizona never mounted a serious threat, though a 10-2 Lumberjacks run in the second half briefly reduced WSU's lead to 70-59.

The Cougars posted a 42-17 advantage in bench points. WSU shot 45.6 percent from the field, including 41.7 percent on 3-pointers.

Kent said the Cougars have some things to clean up but overall he liked the way they shot, passed and played defense.

Washington State hosts Idaho State next Friday.


The Cougars improve to 93-22 all-time in season openers and 54-8 when opening at home.

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