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Men’s basketball comes back for first win

WSU forced overtime, won in season opener at Beasley Coliseum

Redshirt+freshman+forward+Arinze+Chidom+blocks+Texas+State+University+junior+guard+Derrick+Bruce+in+Sunday%E2%80%99s+game.+WSU+won+86-84+in+overtime.
Redshirt freshman forward Arinze Chidom blocks Texas State University junior guard Derrick Bruce in Sunday’s game. WSU won 86-84 in overtime.

Redshirt freshman forward Arinze Chidom blocks Texas State University junior guard Derrick Bruce in Sunday’s game. WSU won 86-84 in overtime.

JORDAN MAXWELL | The Daily Evergreen

JORDAN MAXWELL | The Daily Evergreen

Redshirt freshman forward Arinze Chidom blocks Texas State University junior guard Derrick Bruce in Sunday’s game. WSU won 86-84 in overtime.

DYLAN GREENE, Evergreen reporter

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WSU men’s basketball (1-0) opened the season by overcoming an 18-point halftime deficit to defeat Texas Southern University (0-2) 86-84 in overtime Sunday.

The Cougars were down by as many as 22 points in the first half, but a 32-12 run in the final 13 minutes of the game helped the team force overtime. The score was tied 72-72.

Sophomore guard Malachi Flynn said Head Coach Ernie Kent didn’t say much to the team at halftime because they knew they had to play better.

“We knew what we had to do,” Flynn said. “We put ourselves in that hole and we came out and dug back slowly.”

Two three-pointers and three late free throws in overtime from Flynn helped complete the Cougars’ comeback victory. He had 19 points and made five of his 21 attempted shots on the night.

Flynn said he kept shooting despite his struggles because that’s what the team needed.

“As a shooter you just got to have that mentality that the next one’s going in,” he said. “You got to have a short-term memory as a shooter and that’s what I had tonight.”

WSU shot just over 24 percent from the field in the first half and was only able to muster 24 points. The Tigers shot over 60 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes and racked up 42 points.

Cougar sophomore guard Carter Skaggs said the team might have had some first game jitters that contributed to their slow start.

“First half, we kind of forced a couple [shots] and came out and tried to do a little too much,” Skaggs said. “In the second half, we actually relaxed a little bit and kind of let [the game] come to us.”

The Cougars shot better from the field in the second half, but Kent said WSU’s defense allowed them to climb back into the game. The team forced 20 turnovers on the afternoon.

Kent said he implemented a one-three-one zone on defense in the second half to slow down the Tigers and keep them off balance.

“I thought we were so flat defensively, we couldn’t beat them off the bounce and we weren’t doing a good job of finding three-point shooters,” Kent said. “The one-three-one forced us to play with more energy … and it certainly made the difference in the game.”

WSU only held the lead for 96 seconds in regulation, but a double-double performance from junior forward Robert Franks helped the team battle back. He finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds on the night.

Franks scored 22 of those points in the second half, and at one point, he scored 13 straight for the Cougars. He credited his teammates for his ability to knock down shots when the team needed them.

“I just didn’t want to lose tonight, and my teammates didn’t want us to lose either,” Franks said. “They saw I had the hot hand and they kept feeding me the ball.”

He knocked down four three-pointers in the second half. Kent said Franks took every shot in rhythm, which allowed him to be dangerous from behind the arc.

“He has the ability to take over the game because he shoots the ball so well,” Kent said. “He literally carried us for stretches in the second half.”

Kent said he was impressed with his team’s ability to fight back after struggling in the first half.

“The last 10 minutes, the way we kind of reeled [this team] back in when it got away from us,” Kent said, “that’s hard to do and particularly for a young team with so many players in their first Division I game.”

Franks said he hopes the team won’t put themselves in a position like this again.

“We got young guys that don’t know how to play at this level yet, so, sometimes when we start the game it kind of shocks them a little bit,” he said. “We got to learn from the first half of this game and just keep moving forward.”

WSU will take the court again at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Beasley Coliseum against Seattle University.

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