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Recap: UW runs WSU off the floor, 80-62

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The defense was ... a little better?

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

In a battle of two programs going in completely opposite directions, the ascending Washington Huskies used a blistering run at the end the first half to defeat the Washington State Cougars, 80-62.

It is the Cougs’ 11th loss in their last 14 games, dropping them to 9-11 overall and 1-7 in the Pac-12. The Huskies, meanwhile, swept the two-game series to move to 15-6 and 5-3.

The Huskies started the game shooting well, but the Cougs quickly came back to make it a nip-and-tuck affair through the first 15 minutes of the game. WSU actually held a 28-27 lead after Viont’e Daniels hit a three-pointer with 5:04 to go in the first half.

It was mostly downhill from there. The Huskies scored the next 18 points before Robert Franks laid it in with 30 seconds to play in the half, and WSU trailed by 15 going into the break.

The Cougs tried to make a game of it out of halftime, as an uptick in defensive intensity led to some transition opportunities for Drick Bernstine, who scored WSU’s first five points of the half. Franks followed up with a layup and a foul, and his free throw completed an 8-0 run that closed WSU to within seven.

From there, it really was all downhill. UW outscored the Cougs 25-11 over the next 11 minutes to erase any doubt.

Matisse Thybulle led the Huskies with 18 points on just 10 shots; Franks led WSU with 16 points and nine rebounds.

Three Thoughts

Kent’s changes were ... minor. After last week’s game, Ernie Kent promised changes in the name of defense. There were two: Milan Acquaah and Kwinton Hinson flipped roles, and Kent shortened his rotation to six. No, really ... six:

StatBroadcast.com

Acquaah played better on offense than Hinton has — 7 points, 5 assists, zero turnovers — but it made little difference on the team’s play on either end. The offense scored just 0.90 points per possession (third worst of the season, and basically the same as the first time around), and the defense allowed 1.16 points per possession — better than at Colorado (1.20) and Utah (1.23), but only marginally so.

I’m no coaching expert like Ernie Kent, but it seems to me that when your offense is built around running in transition and jump shooting, and when your defense seems to be built around just hustling or something, maybe relying on six guys to win you the game isn’t the way to go?

(It also seems like a tacit admission that the talent you’ve assembled after four years just isn’t good enough. But I digress.)

The offensive game plan was ... questionable. The Huskies’ zone baffled the Cougs in Pullman, and they didn’t fare much better tonight. At the center of WSU strategy was putting Robert Franks in the high post. I suppose the theory was to put a legitimate offensive threat there that the Huskies had to respect, but the Cougs’ strategy killed them in two ways: 1) With UW daring Franks to beat them from there, he was just 6-of-15 on twos, and 2) planting him on the free throw line meant he only took a pair of threes the whole game. (He missed them both.) This, from a guy who is shooting 43 percent on threes and recently set the school record for threes in a game (10).

I’m no coaching expert like Ernie Kent, but it seems to me that maybe voluntarily neutering one of your team’s best weapons isn’t the way to go?

The immediate future looks ... bleak. Arizona and Arizona come to Pullman this weekend, then the Cougs travel to Oregon State and Oregon. Kenpom.com gives us less than a 30 percent chance in each of those games.

If you’re an optimist, the combined probabilities of the next four games is close to 100 percent, meaning there’s decent reason to think WSU maybe jumps up and gets one of those games.

But if you’re a pessimist, 1-11 in league play is staring the Cougs straight in the face.