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Idaho runs WSU off the floor, 91-64

The good feelings from the Cougs’ hot start are fading.

NCAA Basketball: Washington State at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

For the second consecutive game, the Washington State Cougars were unable to meet the intensity of their opponent, and so, for the second consecutive time, they were more or less run off the floor — this time, by Idaho, 91-64.

It’s the third loss to the Vandals in four tries for Ernie Kent.

The results of the last two games inevitably leads one to question whether the Cougs’ 6-0 start to the season, which featured a championship in the Wooden Legacy tournament, was a bit of a mirage. It’s one thing to have a couple of bad games; it’s quite another to get completely dominated by the likes of UC Davis and Idaho.

To be fair, Idaho is a senior-laden team that is picked to win the Big Sky — the Vandals are far from a bunch of chumps.

But ... Idaho. Big Sky. 27-point margin.

That’s never acceptable.

Before the season, we thought WSU would be bad. Then, we thought maybe we were wrong. Now ... we were right to begin with? To be honest, the Cougs have looked in the last two games pretty much exactly as I expected them to look from the beginning — inconsistent offensively (because of a roster full of limited players), and putrid defensively (because that’s what they’ve always been under Kent).

Which team is the real one?

I never thought what they were doing before was completely sustainable, but I also find myself fairly shocked that they’ve dropped off this bad. Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by the depths to which an Ernie Kent team at WSU can sink. At this point, I’m just hoping the truth is actually somewhere in the middle, between games 4-6 and games 7-8.

Three Observations

  1. The defense is fueled by the offense. Uh oh. Kent’s teams have never been known for their defense, but it was passable early in the season, and that produced some good results when combined with the stellar offense. But after the last couple of games, a trend has emerged — a bad one: These guys get softer on defense when the shots aren’t dropping, and Idaho took full advantage. If Ernie Kent is preaching “don’t let your offense affect your defense” as most coaches do, the message isn’t getting through.
  2. Ernie’s got a big problem at the wing. We’ve mentioned Milan Acquaah’s struggles previously, and Kent — presumably in an effort to jumpstart the early offense — replaced him in the starting lineup tonight with Carter Skaggs. That, quite frankly, was a disaster. Skaggs simply can’t defend, he has a tremendously difficult time finding space for a shot, and the Cougs quickly fell behind again. Acquaah is borderline unplayable at the moment, as it’s not a stretch to say he might be the worst offensive player in all of college basketball at the moment. I’m not here to drag a kid for how he’s playing, but Acquaah is one of two players in the entire country who are playing 25 minutes a game, using 22 percent of his team’s possessions, and posting an offensive rating of less than 75 (average efficiency is around 103). For whatever reason, Kent has decided Kwinton Hinson just isn’t an option in that spot, as he continues to play minimal minutes (and not distinguish himself, beyond a nice stretch against Saint Mary’s). Perhaps it’s time to go big and slide Robert Franks to the wing and put Arinze Chidom at the 4?
  3. Malachi Flynn simply must be more aggressive. For the second time in as many games, Flynn was passive, a problem that plagued him a bit last year, too. Last game, he snapped out of it in the second half. Tonight, he never did, posting only six field goal attempts while passing to his less offensively gifted teammates, who were all too eager to take their own shots. With Franks in foul trouble all night, that spelled doom. If this team is going anywhere, he has to be a dynamic guard. He doesn’t need to score 20 a night, but something on the order of 15 to 17 points and five assists is going to be necessary for this particular team to be competitive.