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Kent: Cougs lack toughness in Arizona loss

WASHINGTON STATE matched Arizona's energy much of the first half on Saturday night. But the Cougars got away from their game plan in the final minutes before the break, Ernie Kent said. Specifically, Kent said the Cougs weren’t tough enough mentally or physically in the 90-66 loss to No. 18/16 Arizona.

You can’t win a game in the first half, but you can lose it.

Washington State had kept within striking distance of Arizona with under four minutes to play in the first half, down 32-26, but were outscored 14-5 to close out the half. The daggers during that stretch were a pair of 3-pointers by Gabe York but they were just more gasoline on the fire – WSU allowed Arizona 7 of 10 shooting from 3-point land over the first 20 minutes.

“We got away from our game plan, we stopped playing as tough as we needed to play – tough mentally, tough physically,” said Kent. “More so mentally because we gave (Gabe) York two 3’s he should not have had.”

Arizona had 20 rebounds in the first half, seven of them on the offensive end. The Wildcats finished the game with 35 boards to WSU’s 23, and snatched 10 offensive boards to the Cougars’ 4. 

Leading 46-31 at the break on 53 percent shooting, Arizona actually improved their shooting percentage in the second half (56 percent).  WSU shot the ball well in the first half at 50 percent, but they just didn’t have enough shots to keep it under a double-digit lead at the break.  WSU finished the game at 45 percent shooting, 27 percent from behind the arc (3-11).

“They shot it well, they were physical, they did everything right,” said Kent of Arizona. “We’ve got to make some big improvements before we play this team again in Pullman.”

Josh Hawkinson’s double-double streak was snapped at 11 games (school record).  He finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds. Ike Iroegbu led the Cougs in scoring with 13 points and Charles Callison chipped in 11 points.

Robert Franks hit two three-pointers and helped to keep the Cougs close early, he finished with 8 points in 18 minutes on 2 of 7 shooting. But Kent said the Cougs are missing Valentine Izundu (foot).on the defensive end.

“We didn’t play as tough as we needed to mentally or physically,” said Kent. “We have to get a little tougher defensively. Our defense without Val is really starting to struggle. And I can’t quite put my finger on that one yet because we’re going to have to get back to some basics, get back to some boot camp this week.”

Kent before the Arizona road trip said he didn’t have a good feel for when Izundu would return, with it looking like a week-to-week proposition.

Next up: WSU hosts Utah on Thursday, Jan. 21 at 8 p.m. in Beasley.


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