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WSU falls to UC Davis, 81-67, for first loss of the season

The offense was bad early, and the defense was bad throughout.

NCAA Basketball: Washington at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

On their way to their perfect 6-0 start, the Washington State Cougars had made it a habit to fall behind presumably inferior teams, only to storm back and claim victory. The first part of that story continued Saturday, as they allowed UC Davis to come into Beasley Coliseum and take a big lead — 17 points at the half.

Only this time, there would be no comeback: The Aggies defeated the Cougars, 81-67, to had them their first loss of the season.

It was the Cougars’ defense that largely failed them today, as a team that had largely struggled all season to score sliced them up: UC Davis scored 81 points on 70 possessions, a 1.16 points per possession clip that is easily their best of the season. They did it in a bunch of different ways, too — on the interior against WSU’s man-to-man with Chima Moneke early (he finished with 19 points), from the perimeter against the 1-3-1 zone later in the first half (5-of-12 from 3), and then on penetration throughout the second half.

A team that had shot 48 percent on twos this season scored 42 points in the paint on while hitting 57 percent of their twos — including 13-of-19 in the second half.

This isn’t to excuse the Cougs’ offense, which was patently horrendous in the first half — 0.69 points per possession, fueled by 10 turnovers and ultra cold perimeter shooting (3-of-15 from beyond the arc).

Robert Franks did his best to pull WSU back in the game, scoring 20 points in the second half on his way to a career-high 32 on 12-of-18 shooting. Flynn chipped in, too, scoring 17 in the second half after an overly passive first half that also featured four turnovers — he had come into the game with just four turnovers all season.

But the defense couldn’t get stops, and any hope of another comeback was extinguished.

Three Observations

  1. This team is still young. This game ticked all the boxes for a potential letdown game, and sure enough, the Cougs were pretty flat for the first 25 minutes or so. It was unfortunate, as this loss definitely mutes some of the good feelings from winning the Wooden Legacy, but I don’t know if I’d read too much into it. If you liked the direction of the team before this, you should still like the direction now.
  2. What happens when Flynn and/or Franks aren’t awesome? That said, if you were on #TeamSmallSampleSize after the first six games, this probably concerns you a little more. Franks got no help from anyone in the first half — he scored 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting, the rest of the team scored 13 on 5-of-19 — and while Flynn joined the party in the second half, everyone else was still pretty much watching it happen. Viont’e Daniels finally came back to earth (0-of-4 from three), Carter Skaggs couldn’t even get open for a shot, and the non-Franks bigs were practically invisible. Someone else has to step up as a reliable third option — probably Drick Bernstine.
  3. How long can Ernie Kent keep playing Milan Acquaah for heavy minutes? Acquaah, a redshirt freshman, does a lot of nice things on the floor, particularly on the defensive end. However, he does one very, very bad thing a lot: He’s given the ball away 29 times in seven games. That’s beyond unsustainable.