There have been too many low points in Ernie Kent’s tenure to count, but if someone was industrious and/or silly enough to actually put such a list together, this weekend would undoubtedly be on it after the Washington State Cougars lost to the California Golden Bears, 76-69.
Following up a 48-point loss to the Stanford Cardinal with a seven-point loss to Cal certainly belongs in Kent’s pantheon of ignominy; the Golden Bears (7-22 overall, 2-15 Pac-12) had roundly been considered the worst high major team in the country, but WSU has now inherited that title thanks to a typical display of Ernieball.
Against one of the worst defenses in the country, the Cougars (11-18, 4-12) could only muster a paltry 0.91 points per possession — the least allowed by Cal all season. WSU shot the ball OK, as it typically does, but 20 turnovers committed by the Cougars neutered their 13-for-31 mark from beyond the arc. The turnovers made up a full 27 percent of the Cougars possessions, and most of those were of the lazy, live ball variety — which Cal duly punished with layups at the other end. The Cougars’ 20 turnovers led to 30 points for Cal.
On the postgame radio show, Ernie went on and on about how proud he was of the team’s bounce-back effort after the Stanford debacle, and proclaimed that they were “right in it.” However, the Cougars were never within even two possessions in the last five minutes of the game. They trailed by six with 5:31 to play after Robert Franks hit a three-pointer — one of his four makes from deep — but the next three possessions went like this: Cal dunk —> WSU turnover —> Cal layup. That pushed the margin to 10, and more or less ended the game.
The Golden Bears actually tried their best to let WSU hang around in the last two minutes, committing its own turnovers and missing free throws, but the Cougars weren’t really all that interested in taking advantage.
WSU never led in the game and trailed by as many as 15 points.
The Cougars return home for their final two games of the regular season, taking on the Oregon Ducks on Wednesday.