No. 7 Wildcats maul Cougars at home

The Cougars proved no match for the seventh ranked Wildcats en route to an 86-59 dismantling.

There wasn’t much hope for the Cougars (11-14, 5-8 in Pac-12) in this one, as Arizona (22-3, 10-2 in Pac-12) didn’t let WSU stay in it for long. Senior forward Dexter Kernich-Drew led the way for the Cougars with a game high 20 points. That marks the second consecutive game Kernich-Drew has scored 20 or more points. Senior Guard DaVonté Lacy added 18 points of his own, but no other Cougar scored in the double digits. Head Coach Ernie Kent said the team’s lack of confidence was their downfall.

“The thing I always talk about is if we don’t play with confidence,” Kent said. “We didn’t defend Oregon, but we shot the ball extremely well when we played them here and Washington over there. We never stopped Nigel Goss-Williams but we shot the ball well over there, and with us it’s about scoring and shooting well and having our confidence.”

The Wildcats were led in scoring by three players: junior forward Brandon Ashley, sophomore forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and junior center Kaleb Tarczewski. All three players scored 17 points with Hollis-Jefferson also grabbing 10 rebounds. Senior center Jordan Railey said the chemistry between Tarczewski and Ashley makes them special players.

“Their tandem with each other,” Railey said. “You can’t rely on help, it’s pretty much one-on-one in the post and trying to front, but it’s hard for guards to be on help side; also because they have good shooters like Gabe York on the opposite side ready to shoot the ball- so it’s just a tough match-up overall, but we got to play better and grind harder.”

For the first few minutes the Cougars hung in there against the Wildcats. However, that changed quickly as Arizona went on a 43-11 run after they led just 10-8 with 14:53 remaining in the first half. The Wildcats had a balanced attack and shot 59 percent from the field in the first half of action.

Ashley had 13 points to lead Arizona while grabbing four rebounds. Hollis-Jefferson had six rebounds and contributed 12 points for the Wildcats.

WSU was forced to play catch-up as they struggled immensely shooting the basketball. They started the game 0-for-10 from three-point land before hitting their first three. The Cougar backcourt combined for just seven points in the first half going 2-of-17 from the field. As a whole, WSU shot a dismal 27 percent in the first half of action. Lacy said Arizona did a terrific job at capitalizing on WSU’s poor shooting.

“The jumpers, I think we relied on them too much,” Lacy said. “Once they hit (the rim) Arizona capitalized and scored when we didn’t score; there had to be stretch in there, in eight something minutes, where we didn’t even get a field goal, and we can’t do that against a really, really good team and have those lapses.”

Big men Railey and Hawkinson led the Cougars with six points respectively in the first half of action. No other Cougar player had more than three points. WSU entered the half trailing 53-19.

The Cougars improved their performance in the second half, but the Arizona lead was insurmountable. WSU hit four out of their first five threes in the second half, with Kernich-Drew hitting all of them. WSU shot 63 percent from the field in the second half of action. WSU managed to outscore the Wildcats 40-33 thanks in large part to the play of Kernich-Drew and Lacy.

The Cougars will have a week to game plan for their next contest against their cross-state rival Washington Huskies. Washington is reeling having lost their last seven contests after starting conference play 3-3. WSU defeated the Huskies in Seattle earlier this season 80-77. The game will be played next Sunday at 5:30 in Pullman. Kent said the team is going to be prepared for the rivalry match-up.

“This is a rival game,” Kent said. “We need to make sure we’re ready to play in a big rivalry game, we’ll take the week to get ready and we won’t have a hangover from this game. It’s more about what we need to get back to doing for ourselves to make sure we’re playing well.”

The game will tip off at 5:30 p.m. in Beasley Coliseum and will be televised on ESPNU.