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'Awesome' game had it all for Washington State -- except for a victory

PULLMAN -- One crimson and gray clad fan dubbed it an "awesome" college basketball game, packed with big plays, acrobatic layups, and a chance to tie the game at the end of regulation. But 11 missed free throws cost the Cougars another win in Pac-12 play as they fell 75-70 Saturday night against Colorado at Friel Court.

It is said that basketball is a game of runs, but WSU vs. Colorado on Saturday was more a run of missed shots.

Colorado had 12 stretches where they missed at least two field goals between makes. WSU had but five stretches of two-plus misses before a make. But in those five, the Cougs had two stretches of at least six consecutive missed field goals. Colorado (15-5, 4-3) only had one stretch where they missed five shots before their next made basket.

And therein, combined with poor shooting from the charity stripe, lies the loss.

The crowd was loud almost the entire second half, but afterwards junior Ike Iroegbu and fourth-year junior center Conor Clifford were not. Both clearly were disappointed after the game, answering questions carefully and decisively. They were reflective, with Iroegbu expressing confidence despite another setback.

“We always have confidence in ourselves,” he said. ”It showed that even though we missed a ton of free throws we were still in it until the very last possession of the game.”

Iroegbu scored a team-high 27 points after accumulating just seven against Utah on Thursday.

“I know I had a really bad game against Utah,” he said. “I felt like I did a good job driving to the basket and finishing most of my layups (tonight).”

Clifford, who tied his career-high with 18 points and shot 8-of-9 from the field. was succinct when asked how the team would address the free-throw issue.

“Just work," he said. "You gotta get in and work on it and that's what we're going to do."

Defensively, the Cougs played better than they did against Utah, holding the Utes to 39 percent. Ernie Kent attributed that post game to better communication on the floor. Sophomore Ny Redding and senior Brett Boese made their second starts of the season because of their communication skills, Kent said.

The Cougars (9-10 overall, 1-6 Pac-12) were bullied Thursday against Utah, but played with more toughness on Saturday.

“Toughness becomes a mental thing, to know your job and then have the physical capability to do your job," Kent said.. “So that was my thing. I felt like on Thursday we were mentally out of the game and physically out of the game. Today, we were mentally into the game and physically. We didn't manhandle Colorado, we just did our assignments.”

As he generally has done the past few home games, Kent was quick to give kudos to the fans. The official stats listed 3,332 in attendance.

“I just think this crowd continues to grow," Kent said. "The energy in the building, how loud it was, it was just a great atmosphere for us to play in."

Next up, Washington State heads to Los Angeles to play USC on Thursday (7:30 p.m.) and then UCLA on Saturday (4:00 p.m.). Both games can be seen on the Pac-12 Networks.

NOTABLE NOTES:

-- WSU outscored Colorado 40-30 in the paint.

-- Iroegbu has scored 10-plus points in five of WSU’s seven Pac-12 games. His career high is 28, which he set against UW earlier this month.

-- Josh Hawkinson recorded his 14th double-double of the season and 34th of his career with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

-- Ny Redding played a personal season-high 27 minutes. He tied his season high with five assists.

-- Brett Boese played his second-most minutes this season (23).

-- Both Redding and Boese made their second start of the season.

WSU’s starting lineup of Iroegbu, Redding, Boese, Hawkinson and Junior Longrus was the eighth different lineup for the Cougs this season.

Official Basketball Box Score:


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