Cougs return with tails between their legs

The WSU men’s basketball team took two “L’s” against Stanford and California this weekend.

The Cougars first took on Stanford on Thursday night and suffered an 84-54 loss. Stanford led from the get-go, building an 18-point lead five minutes into the first half to the delight of 3,491 spectators.

“I thought they just physically manhandled us,” WSU Head Coach Ernie Kent said in an interview with Stanford Athletic Communications. “Defensively, we had no answers, offensively we had no answers. They shot the ball with an enormous amount of confidence and with toughness.”

In the first 10 minutes of the game, the Cardinals took control of the action by scoring 20 unanswered points. Stanford sophomore guard Robert Cartwright scored a career-high of 21 points in the game.

During the first half, the Cougars shot 28 percent from the floor while Stanford scored at a blistering 55.9 percent. In the second half, WSU improved to 35.5 percent but was no match for the Cardinals 53.6.

WSU seniors Josh Hawkinson, Ike Iroegbu and Conor Clifford scored in double-digits. Hawkinson netted 14 points, Iroegbu scored 13 and Clifford made 15.

“I was surprised by the score, but I’m not surprised we’re making progress,” Stanford Head Coach Jerod Haase said via Stanford Athletic Communication. “We played well. I’m cautiously optimistic.”

Though the Cougars suffered the same result two days later against Cal, the performance was markedly improved. Even with the courtside support of former WSU alumnus Klay Thompson, the Cougars lost 58-54 in Berkeley.

“I thought for this team to go through the horrendous travel we had to go through to get down here, it knocked us out-of-whack,” Kent said. “We left campus at 7:30 on Wednesday and spent six, seven hours in Spokane.”

The Cougars offensive performance improved from its rough shooting display against Stanford. WSU had shot 40.7 percent from the floor in the first half and a 35.7 percent in the second half.

The Cougars built a comfortable 12-point lead early in the first half of the game. Sophomore forward Robert Franks and freshman guard Malachi Flynn both contributed to the early lead. Franks poured a career-high three baskets from behind the arc, and Flynn added 10 points, half of his total for the game.

“We had six turnovers before the under-12 minute timeout, which is unacceptable,” Cal senior guard Sam Singer said. “We need to take care of the ball, shoot the right shots instead of quick shots, and we need to be a lot more efficient on offense.”

Hawkinson nabbed 12 rebounds and scored a total of seven points. WSU Sophomore guard Viont’e Daniels enjoyed a career-high in assists and minutes played with four and 32 respectively.

“When I talk about this team having growth potential, it has Robert Franks and Viont’e Daniels because those two are outstanding shooters,” Kent said. “When they have their confidence, they allow you to spread the floor and they can shoot, inside or outside, just really good players, it’s all confidence with them.”

Cal sophomore forward Ivan Rabb, who scored 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, displayed respect toward the Cougars and Hawkinson’s offensive skills after the game.

“He’s good down low, but he can score at all three levels,” Rabb said of Hawkinson. “He is definitely a competitor, so we took it personally tonight trying to slow him down a little bit. He did a good job continuing to fight.”

The Cougars now return home for a game against Utah on Wednesday. The Utes lost a close game against No. 4 UCLA, 83-82 on Saturday, but hold an impressive overall record of 12-5.

The game begins at 6 p.m. at Beasley Coliseum and will air on the Pac-12 Network.