Cougs 'so close' Kent says after loss to USC

FOR 37 OF THE 40 minutes in Washington State’s men’s basketball game at USC on Thursday, the Cougars went toe-to-toe with the Trojans. But those other three minutes were nothing less than dreadful and WSU coach Ernie Kent couldn't help but coming back to them in his post-game chat with radio man Matt Chazanow.

The difference in the game, Kent noted following the 81-71 loss at the Galen Center, came down the stretch run of the first half when USC went on a 14-2 run to take a 52-41 lead into intermission.

“We had missed assignments on rotations and gave up a dunk, we gave up a couple fouls, we gave up a drive -- it was us,“ Kent said of the end of the half.

“Mentally, we lost our focus for about three minutes and boom, they jumped up on us by about 11 and that was the difference.“

Indeed, the lead changed hands 14 times and was tied 12 times in the first 16 minutes of the game. The Cougars also outscored the Trojans 30-29 in the second half.

"If we just block out, rotate and not turn the ball over ..." Kent said of the three-minute lull.

Kent lauded his club for never quitting. Down by 16 midway through the second half, the Cougars narrowed the score to 70-64 on a Josh Hawkinson tip with 6:14 left.

Que Johnson stole the ball on USC’s subsequent possession and WSU had a chance to cut the deficit to four when Hawkinson went to the line for a one and one. He missed the front end and USC proceeded to score five straight and never looked back.

“I thought if we knocked down those two free throws it puts an enormous amount of pressure on a team that’s been undefeated at home and in the race for a conference championship and you’ve got ‘em right here,“ Kent said.

Ike Iroegbu led the way for the Cougars with 21 points on 7 of 15 accuracy from the field and 6 of 8 shooting from the line. He also led the Cougars in assists, with 6. Hawkinson collected yet another double-double pulling down 11 rebounds and scoring 16 points on 6 of 11 shooting from the field. And Johnson scored 16 points, going 5 of 12 from the field.

The Cougars fell to 9-11 overall and 1-7 in conference play.

Kent said the Cougars must learn how to close both halves of a game. He also remained unwavering that his team would be a factor in the conference race, telling Chazanow they either would be spoilers or put together a flourish of wins.

"This team is so close," he said. "We just need a breakthrough somewhere ... to gain that confidence, momentum ..."

NEXT UP: The Cougars take on UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday at 4 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks). The Bruins fell to the Huskies Thursday night, 86-84, dropping their record to 12-9 overall.


  • Valentine Izundu (foot) didn't play for the Cougars for the sixth-straight game.

  • With 230 career assists, Iroegbu has moved into 18th on WSU’s career assists list.

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