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Cougs can't finish in nail biting 58-54 loss at Cal

IN A HOOPS GAME decided by few points, much of the post game emphasis is focused on the final stretch. But the story of Washington State's 58-54 loss at Cal had its roots at the foul line and in the final minutes of the first half.

Both teams started slow but the Cougs led 29-21 with 3:45 remaining in the first. And with Klay Thompson courtside wearing a WSU shirt, the Cougars had a chance to really put Cal on its heels before halftime.  Alas for the Cougs, they missed three shots and committed two turnovers as Cal closed out the half on a 7-0 run.

The Cougs led most of the second half too, though never by more than five points, only to see Cal finish the second half on an 8-4 run to send WSU home 0-2 on its Bay Area road trip.  A customary ingredient this season for the Cougars, points at the foul line, was missing in action.  WSU hit all of its free throw attempts, but only went to the line four times.

Washington State (9-8, 2-3) has now dropped three straight following a season-high four-game winning streak. Cal moved to 13-5, 4-2.

True freshman Malachi Flynn, scoreless in WSU's 30-point loss to Stanford on Thursday, poured in 20 points in 40 minutes at Cal. Senior forward Josh Hawkinson scored seven points and took only six shots on the night in 40 minutes.  Senior big Conor Clifford was the only other Coug in double figures but he had an uncharacteristically cold night from the floor - it took 5 of 14 shooting to get his 10 points.

Hawkinson did pull down 12 boards to lead the Cougars. But WSU, as has been the case most of the season, was outrebounded and outscored in the paint. At Cal, the rebounding difference was slight at 34-30 but what really did the damage: 11 of Cal's rebounding total came on the offensive end.  Cal outscored WSU 24-14 in the paint.

Ernie Kent looked to his bench for both production and minutes with Charles Callison playing only 8 minutes. Robert Franks hit three 3-pointers and was on the floor down the deciding stretch in the second half, while Viont'e Daniels played 32 minutes off the bench. Flynn and Franks combine for 19 first-half points.

UP NEXT: WSU returns home to host Utah on Wednesday at 6 pm, followed by a Saturday afternoon tip vs. Colorado (1 pm).

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