Behind a strong offensive charge led by freshman forward CJ Elleby and junior forward Robert Franks Jr., WSU avenged the Idaho Vandals 90-70 in Beasley Coliseum.
Junior College transfer Isaiah Wade – who has been absent of late – notably made an appearance for Washington State earning 16 minutes of action. Elleby ended the night with 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists on 50 percent shooting. Franks similarly carded 22 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists shooting 53 percent from the floor.
The first half played out like a dance. Each squad rocked a tight defensive zone forcing the opposition to take perimeter shots. Little was done from either program to test the waters inside. And while WSU tried to work it low early, they saw miniscule success finding only 8 points in the paint during the first half of play.
“Their zone kind of slowed us down and, ya know, once we started getting stops and got running, it was back to Cougar basketball,” Franks said.
WSU was forced to rely on the longball, a feeling they know all too well. Seven of Wazzu’s 11 available players cashed in from beyond the arc with a communal three-point percentage north of 37.
The Cougs looked to be their biggest adversary much of the night playing with an unnecessary sense of urgency. Players were taking the first shot available rather than the best shot. On the occasion WSU moved the ball in accordance with Coach Kent’s wishes, their patience was rewarded with warm-up like jumpers that seldom disappointed the 2,748 fans in attendance.
“It was so neat to see the students over there. I can’t tell you enough what that does for us defensively.”Ernie Kent
If a fan were to check his phone for messages, he would have missed three lead changes by the time his eyes returned to Friel Court. Indeed, A slugfest ensued with neither squad latching on to a commanding lead for the majority of play. But once WSU found their rhythm, it was a question of when, not if, the Cougs would pull away.
Leading only 45-40 at the half courtesy of clutch Jervae Robinson and CJ Elleby threes, WSU ran the floor for 20 straight minutes. Opening the second half with a 11-0 run, their extended lead ceased to be threatened at any point.
“We were getting the stops. And it really gave us an opportunity to get out and put the speed game back at it. I don’t think we have been running as well as we need to,” Kent told the press. “That energy in the building gave us a chance to get out and share the ball and play. In this system if you play hard, if you play defense, and if you run, you are going to score.”
Idaho’s premier perimeter shooter Cameron Tyson was reduced to an invaluable asset at best. Averaging 16 points per game and shooting 52 percent from three on the year, the Bothel High School product went 1/9 from the floor with 3 points on 11 minutes.
The freshman Vandal wasn’t alone. Idaho’s second half proved detrimental as they failed to keep pace with a well energized Cougar surge. Unable to make a single three ball fall on 8 attempts, it appeared the vandals couldn’t throw it in the ocean if they tried.
The stars aligned. As a tenacious defense transitioned to favorable offensive outcomes, 12 turnovers, 5 blocks, and 30 bench points pushed WSU to victory with contributions from all recording minutes in crimson and gray threads.
“We just shut down the lanes. Really emphasizing when talking in the locker room at halftime. Just playing with a little more energy, getting the stops, and running the transition,” Elleby said.
WSU moves to 5-2 on the season. Their next matchup is Sunday Dec. 9 against the Montana State Bobcats in Kennewick, Washington. Live coverage of the 4 p.m. tip can be found on the Pac-12 Networks.