Basketball

Defenseless Cougs fall in Corvallis

Washington State failed to rebound effectively, but they made up for it by not playing defense.

Washington State flirted with the idea of making Thursday night in Corvallis an interesting ballgame. But once hearing that defense was half the equation, the crimson and grey appeared to have lost interest.

Oregon State (12-6, 4-2) buried WSU (8-10, 1-5) behind a trio of 20-plus point performances in the form of Ethan Thomson, Stephen Thomson Jr., and Tres Tinkle to a final 90-77 margin.

As a team, WSU shot a clean 50 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from downtown, and 90 percent from the stripe. Wazzu had no problems shooting the ball, but only led for 25 seconds of the entire 40 minutes.

It seemed to be a product of their inability to compete at the glass. OSU bullied their way to a 39-24 advantage in the rebound column behind seven-footer Kylor Kelley – the nations leading shot blocker.

Both teams shot eerily similar percentages, so it was clear WSU would have to dance with their greatest enemy – playing defense, that is – to mitigate the lost possessions through rebounds.

However, the Cougs were slow to get back. They appeared to be running uphill in transition and forfeited a monstrous 18 fast-break points in the process. Surly a lack of effort wasn’t the issues, but the disparity in depth and athleticism was blatant.

And despite Robert Franks 14 points behind a pair of three-point daggers, WSU trailed 36-52 at the break. It was clear if the Cougars had any hope, someone not named Franks needed to step up big.

Thankfully, the Beavers had a headache the latter 20 minutes and his name was CJ Elleby. The true freshman balled out for 21 points, 9-13 shooting, and 3-5 from deep. Yet somehow, his plus/minus – behind some beautifully orchestrated basketball – was only 4. This run brought his evening’s running total back down to -11.

The only Coug to not have a negative figure for the evening was sophomore Marvin Cannon. His 10-point, 21-minute night measured out to an even zero.

If silver linings and moral victories mattered here in Ernie Kent’s fifth season, at least we now know who is playing defense. So props to you, Cannon.

Kent told the media after Franks return that his decision to cut down the rotation would hold the entire roster more accountable.

January 17, 2019

“There’s just a lot of players, and it’s gonna hold everybody accountable to defending, rebounding, blocking out, playing smart, taking good shots and that’s exactly where we need to be.”

Ernie Kent

That certainly was not the case tonight. Carter Skaggs – who has seen reduced action as a result – got six first half minutes. Presumably in an effort to keep the starters accountable.

Franks played 37 minutes before fouling out. He recorded 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assist. All three figures would have led the floor for Washington State had Elleby not been handed a garbage-time layup.

Coach Kent and Co. were unable to be reached for comment postgame due to CSN covering this matchup off site.

WSU remains winless on the road and finishes up the back end of this road trip Sunday at Oregon. Live coverage of the 5 p.m. tip can be found at ESPNU.

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