The Washington State Cougars narrowly avoided an embarrassing start to the 2017-18 season when they stormed back from a 21-point second-half deficit to defeat Texas Southern in overtime, 86-84.
WSU hadn’t lost a home opener since Paul Graham was coach, in 2002, and it took a furious rally to avoid the ignominy: The Cougs outscored the Tigers 35-14 over the final 13:28 to tie the game and send it to an extra frame.
Robert Franks was the catalyst, scoring an incredible 20 points on that run — four 3-pointers and eight free throws. He finished the game with 25 points and 11 rebounds, both team highs.
He fouled out with 42 seconds to go in regulation, though, and WSU was forced to complete the comeback without him. That’s when Malachi Flynn finally came alive. After finishing regulation 3-of-17 overall and 0-of-9 from three, he buried his first shot from behind the arc in overtime to give the Cougs a three-point lead, then hit another one a couple of minutes later to help the Cougs recapture the lead. He only hit 3-of-6 free throws down the stretch, but it was good enough to keep the Tigers at bay.
1. As Robert Franks goes, so go the Cougs. Franks is going to take a lot of shots. If he hits them, WSU is going to be able to keep up with some people. If he doesn’t — or if he finds himself on the bench because of foul trouble, as he did in this one — the offense is likely going to struggle mightily.
2. So we’re a three-point shooting team now, I guess? WSU shot 46 times from behind the arc. FORTY. SIX. They ended up making enough of them (15 to be exact), but they nearly shot themselves right out of the game early — and probably would have if Texas Southern wasn’t also a pretty bad team that made a lot of questionable decisions down the stretch.
As you can imagine, in order to shoot that many threes, you’ve got to shoot all kinds of them, and WSU did; there were threes in transition, there were threes on the pick and pop, and then there were lots and lots and lots of threes where everyone was just standing around and watching each other so somebody just decided to heave it at the rim:
Perhaps all you need to know is that Arinze Chidom, the Cougs’ starting center, shot eight threes. It was as undisciplined an offensive performance as you can possibly fathom, the kind of stuff typically reserved for AAU tournaments in July. And it looked like it was taking place with Ernie Kent’s blessing.
3. The defense is still bad. That said, I’ll reserve judgment ... for now. The first half was filled with clumsy rotations and poor communication, and Texas Southern made the Cougs pay repeatedly. WSU started switching things up a little in the second half, junking it up a little to confuse the Tigers. It worked, and they fell apart as WSU mounted its charge. Viont’e Daniels had some nice individual moments, drawing a couple of charges.
Up next: WSU hosts Seattle U on Wednesday.