With stud scorer Robert Franks on the sideline in sweatpants, the Washington State Cougars suffered what might be the most embarrassing loss of the Ernie Kent era, falling 78-69 to the Seattle University Redhawks on Wednesday night at the ShoWare Center in Kent.
The Redhawks entered the game ranked No. 248 at kenpom.com, and even with the absence of Franks, Seattle U is a team that a Pac-12 team should handle fairly easily.
There was nothing easy about this one — WSU led for less than two minutes in the entire game.
Without their go-to player, the Cougars struggled mightily to find any kind of offensive rhythm: They shot just 29.6 percent overall, including 25 percent from three-point range (6-of-24). About the only thing that kept them in it was a 21-of-24 performance from the free throw line.
Freshman CJ Elleby, coming off a nice debut in the season-opening win over Nicholls State, showed why it’s rough counting on such a young player; he tied for the team lead with 16 shots but could only convert three of them, including missing both threes. He finished with 12 points.
Senior Viont’e Daniels wasn’t much better; he was 3-of-12 for 11 points.
The lone offensive bright spot was newcomer Isaiah Wade, a junior college transfer; he finished with 17 points on 8-of-16 shooting while also collecting 10 rebounds — including five on the offensive end.
The performance was a huge contrast from the opener, in which the defense forced lots of turnovers and converted those in to easy fast break buckets. The Redhawks turned it over plenty — 17 times! — but the Cougs were only able to turn them into seven fast break points. They were only 8-of-20 on their layup attempts, and there was only one dunk (below).
It appeared for a moment that WSU might actually make a move to win the game in the second half. After trailing by six at the break, the Cougs fell behind by nine with just over 16 minutes left in the game. But Daniels led a surge, hitting back-to-back threes, the second of which was punctuated by an and-one. The game was tied a moment later when Wade did this:
Tie game. And the Cougs took a three-point lead a moment later when newcomer Jervae Robinson converted his own and-one. There was a feeling that maybe WSU was ready to take control of the game.
It was their last lead. Seattle U went on a 9-0 run of its own, and while the Cougs would maintain contact for the next few minutes, the Redhawks outscored WSU 19-11 over the final 7:29 to put the game away.
Kent said postgame that Franks had a sore foot that needed to rest.
The Cougs will next be in action on Monday back in Pullman against Cal Poly. The Mustangs are ranked No. 313 by kenpom.com.