The 2016-17 WSU basketball season came to a predictable end Wednesday night when the 10th-seeded Cougs lost to 7th-seeded Colorado, 73-63. It is WSU’s ninth consecutive loss in the Pac-12 tournament.
And yet, they found a way to do it that left even the most cynical of WSU fans scratching their heads.
The Cougs came out of the gate appearing absolutely determined to snap that ignominious streak, topping the Buffaloes’ energy at both ends of the floor. That, combined with some ridiculous shooting — in particular from Charles Callison, who scored 10 of WSU first 14 points — led to an almost-unimaginable 19-point lead for WSU with seven minutes to go in the first half, 30-11.
Over the final 33 minutes, Colorado outscored WSU 62-33.
The Buffaloes were able to trim a little bit off the lead before the break, getting to within 14. But even though their grip on the game was loosening just a bit, the Cougs still were firmly in control.
Everything changed after halftime. Defensively, the Buffaloes extended their pressure out to the three-point line and fronted the post, daring the Cougs to beat them off the dribble. They could not, and ended up shooting 31 percent from the field in the second half
Offensively, Derrick White finally remembered that he could get his shot off pretty much anytime he wanted against WSU’s diminutive guards: He scored 17 points in the second half on 6-of-11 shooting.
He was complemented by big man Xavier Johnson, whom the Cougs apparently were unaware was lefthanded (despite playing the Buffs twice this season). He scored 12 in the second half.
And whatever shots the Buffs did miss — which weren’t many, as they shot 54 percent — generally ended up back in their hands anyway; their seven offensive rebounds were half the total opportunities. It only led to three second-chance points, but it underscored Colorado’s dominance.
WSU ends its season 13-18, bringing Ernie Kent’s record at WSU to 35-58 in three seasons, including 14-40 in conference play. Currently, WSU is ranked No. 191 by kenpom.com, five spots worse than each of the first two seasons.
Kent’s five-year contract was rolled over with one-year extensions after each of the first two seasons. It would be surprising if news of another rollover didn’t trickle out in the next couple of weeks.
If that bums you out, this should make you smile.
Hawkinson finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds — the 56th and final double-double of his career.