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Malachi Flynn with record-setting night in WSU victory, but the return of the Cougar defense was just as big

PULLMAN – A would-be blowout win turned uncomfortably close down the stretch. But Washington State in the end made the right moves to rebound and reignite hardcourt hope out on the Palouse with an 83-76 victory over Utah Valley. True freshman guard Malachi Flynn was in the zone, driving and hooping his way into the WSU record books and No. 6 on the freshmen all-time, single-game scoring list with 27 points.

Ernie Kent's team found a rhythm, and a win, Wednesday night in Beasley by playing defense. But Flynn stole the show. 

He hit 11 of 14 from the field. Flynn was a perfect 6 of 6 in the first half, pounding Utah Valley into an early submission.

"It was just trying to come out and be aggressive and just look for my shots and tonight they fell down," the Tacoma native said after the game.
 
"It was fascinating watching him take over the game being as young as he is," said senior guard Charles Callison

"It's going to be more fascinating seeing him do it again though," replied junior forward Derrien King.
 
Senior forward Josh Hawkinson also had a big night, scoring 12 points and grabbing 17 rebounds -- and none was bigger on the glass than with 0:45 left in the game. 

WSU led Utah Valley by 18 at halftime, 19 in the second half and still held a 14-point advantage with around 10 minutes to play. But Wazzu allowed Utah Valley back in, and it slowly whittled the Cougar lead all the way down to a single point with about a minute to play. Hawkinson’s offensive rebound and put back started a 6-0 WSU run to finally finish off the Wolverines.

Flynn was particularly lethal driving the paint early, while Callison, King and Hawkinson all scored in double figures. But it was the WSU defense, absent for most of the early season, that shined brightest.

Utah Valley put up 114 points against BYU but Washington State effectively fought through screens and switched off nicely, especially in the first half.  The tight coverage made the Utah Valley shooters uncomfortable for most of the game -- when they did have open looks, they mostly weren't in rhythm.   The Cougs held Utah Valley to 37 percent shooting on the night.

The officials seemed to have a hard time keeping up all game long. They took several timeouts to review fouls and clock accuracy. Kent was frustrated with the delays.
 
"Those were momentum stoppers for us -- they were great for Utah Valley, because it gave them a chance to catch their breath, regroup and come at us a little bit more. But for us, we felt like we had a team on the ropes. We wanted to keep running -- speed! And fast! And it slowed the first half down," he said.
 
King, with 13 points in 30 minutes, said the Cougs' goal for the remaining non conference slate is simple.

"Not lose another game at home,” he said. “We're not focused on conference play right now. We felt like we gave up the game against San Jose State. We just have to get through adversity.”

Kent also had praise for the WSU bench.
 
"It's probably the best they've played (the bench) but they've done it before -- most consistent I’d say from start to finish," said Kent.
 
From my chair, WSU responded to a disappointing loss against SJSU by doing just about everything they needed to do -- play with speed, good communication, outlast adversity and play better D.
 
All they did it against a Utah Valley squad that coming in had only lost to Gonzaga, and embarrassed BYU on its own floor. Plus, to see a true freshman produce the way Flynn did is going to turn some heads.

The Cougars next play host to New Orleans on Saturday (3 pm, Pac-12 Network).


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