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Why did WSU lose to ASU? The Cougs don’t know how to close

Weirdly, inexperience didn’t stop them from closing early in the year when they beat Saint Mary’s and San Diego State.

NCAA Basketball: Washington State at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Hello, friends, and welcome back to the latest edition of Why Did WSU Basketball Lose This Time?, brought to you by Ernie Kent.

WSU basketball is enduring its longest stretch of ineptitude since Paul Graham roamed the sidelines at Friel Court — the Cougs are 44-71 overall under Ernie Kent and 15-49 in Pac-12 play — which means there are lots of opportunities for Kent to provide excuses reasons for his team’s latest stumble.

Often, these excuses reasons are fairly nonsensical, and sometimes will even contradict previous excuses reasons — this one is the gold standard. These excuses reasons often also tend to subtly shift the blame away from coaching and toward some sort of inherent problem with the players themselves.

Since the Cougs have now lost 13 of 16 games and this season is now once again devoid of interesting on-court results, we’re entertaining ourselves by debunking our coach’s most recent excuses reasons for a loss.

Following WSU’s meltdown against Arizona State, which saw a tie game with five minutes to go devolve into a 10-point loss, Ernie Kent offered up the following explanation for his team’s demise:

Ah, yes: Can’t close a game, by way of inexperience.

This is a very interesting take. It sure looked like the Cougs knew how to close a game when they ...

  • ... came back from down 16 with 20 minutes to go against Texas Southern, with Malachi Flynn scoring six points in the last minute to secure the victory.
  • ... came back from a 17-point deficit to Saint Joseph’s with 17 minutes to play, with Flynn nailing a 3-pointer to put the Cougs up by two with six seconds to play, then with Viont’e Daniels coolly making a pair of free throws to ice the win.
  • ... held off a furious rally to beat Saint Mary’s, in which the Gaels trimmed a 16-point lead with 4 minutes to go all the way to three. Robert Franks hit a layup with 18 seconds to go to make it a two possession game, then, after SMC made a quick layup, Flynn found Jeff Pollard for a layup at the end of a press break to seal the win.
  • ... outscored San Diego State 15-7 over the final four minutes to turn a one-point deficit into a seven-point victory — and a Wooden Legacy championship.

Those were four of the first six games of the season. Inexperience didn’t seem to be a problem then!

Since, WSU has played five games that were within five points in the final five minutes: UTEP, Kansas State, Washington (the first time), Stanford and Arizona State. The Cougs lost all five.

Which begs some questions: Did they actually forget how to win? Did they unlearn what they learned early in the year? Did Ernie Kent change up his Finishing Games drills in practice?

I suppose this will remain one of life’s great mysteries, just as blaming “inexperience” remains one of the most convenient coach excuses, since it pins the losses on a trait that a coach can’t “speed up.”

Ernie Kent Ridiculous Excuse Leaderboard

Excuse Count
Excuse Count
Toughness 3
Inexperience 2
Slow refs 1
Bad shooting by backups 1
Ken Bone 1
Lack of student support 1
It's just a tough job 1
NCAA rules 1