You’d have thought Kyle Weaver, Aron Baynes, and Taylor Rochestie were suited up in crimson and gray threads Saturday night in Beasley Coliseum as a packed student section doubled the season-high attendance figure.
“That was by far the best crowd I have seen here as a coach,” Ernie Kent said. “The energy in that building, it had that roar they had when George Raveling was here. When you would hate to come here and play a game”
But in the most heartbreaking fashion possible, 4,233 fans were left dazed as the Washington Huskies (20-5, 11-1) slide past the Washington State Cougars (10-15, 3-9) by a narrow 72-70 margin.
Despite 11 lead changes, the Cougars were on top of their in-state rival for nearly 29 minutes. But it simply wasn’t enough to keep UW forward Noah Dickerson and guard Jaylen Nowell at bay. The Duo combined for 38 points and 14 boards.
The Cougs commanded pace of play for the entire first half, but Washington kept in touch. And after a pair of back-to-back first-half baseline dunks in the form of Matisse Thybulle bringing the lead down to single digits, it was clear these Dawgs weren’t going anywhere.
“Just calm down,” mouthed the 6-foot-5 forward to WSU’s student section after his second consecutive jam. And calm down they did as UW rattled off a second-half 13-3 run in the blink of an eye giving Washington its first lead since the contests opening minutes.
Marvin Cannon did much of WSU’s heaving lifting up until that point, as he would finish the night with a floor-leading 25 points and 8 boards. This filled the void of a quite first-half performance by Robert Franks. The senior had just 2 buckets in the first 20 minutes of play.
“I told him just relax and let the game come to him,” Kent said. “Them keying on Robo gave other player an opportunity to step up.”
Robo came back hot breathing life back into Beasley after cueing up a duo of treys – one of which from another area code. The hometown crowd was at their feet and ready to roar, but promptly found their seats once again as the white jerseys tossed away a pair of costly turnovers in the final 2 minutes of play.
“We lengthened the game when we should have been focused on shortening the game.”Ernie Kent
A half-court buzzer-beater by Franks went dismissed as fans already began filing out the doors. The Husky tandem of Dickerson and Nowell had already slammed the door shut on a potential Cougar victory as their 7 straight points in the closing minutes put the contest out of reach with just .7 seconds remaining.
In one of the most unexpected ways possible, it seemed the one-two punch of Franks and freshman star CJ Elleby played the Cougs’s biggest adversary after each carded 5 turnovers a piece.
“I will say, the last few minutes were a turning point in the game,” Franks said. “I think they were all self inflicted.”
Franks ended the night on 16 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks.. Elleby – on 20 minutes – recorded 5 points, 4 boards, 2 assists and a steal. WSU shot 49 percent as a team, 42 percent from deep, and 93 percent from the free throw line.
“This team still has a lot of growth potential left because Washington is the best team in the league by far,” Kent said. “Unfortunately, we looked so good for so long and this veteran team kept their composure and we lost our composure.”
WSU hosts Colorado (15-9, 6-6) Wednesday. The 7 p.m. tip will be carried by the Pac-12 Network.