Washington State uses second-half spark to top Delaware State 80-52

November 25, 2018

PULLMAN – The final 13 minutes redeemed Washington State in a game against Delaware State that, to that point, had been difficult to watch.

With the late turnaround, the Cougars (3-1) cruised to an 80-52 nonconference win over the Hornets (1-5).

WSU shot 11 for 29 (37.9 percent) from the field in the first half. It wasn’t woeful, only because the Hornets shot 13 for 45 (28.9 percent). Both teams were content to fire away from the perimeter – without success – and the Cougs did so outside the structure of their offense.

“There was too much one-on-one, too many guys hunting shots, as opposed to letting the game come to them,” Cougars head coach Ernie Kent said.

In the second half, however, the Cougars rediscovered the flow and rhythm that has characterized their wins this season. They pushed a five-point halftime edge to as much as 32 points, and they finished shooting a respectable 27 for 60 (45 percent) for the game.

“There’s a certain feel to this system,” Kent said. “You saw it in the last 13 minutes. … It almost seems like dancing.

“If it’s your opportunity to shoot, you shoot. If it’s your opportunity to pass, you pass.”

The undersized Hornets faced a tough matchup against 6-foot-9 Robert Franks. Franks finished with 24 points, including 17 in the second half.

But his jump shot abandoned him – he went 0 for 6 from beyond the arc – so Franks took the ball inside. He also contributed in other ways, leading the Cougs with 11 rebounds and three monster blocks.

WSU junior guard Ahmed Ali, who backed Franks with 17 points, shouldered the blame for the slow start.

“I think it started with me,” Ali said. “I should have got the guys easier shots.”

Ali said the Cougars learned a valuable lesson against the Hornets, whose only win is over NCAA Division III College of St. Elizabeth.

“We should never look down on anybody,” he said.

Ali showed the way inside with a nice drive down the lane early in the first half to cut Delaware State’s lead to 9-7.

Viont’e Daniels, who got a start against the Hornets, added 11 points and Marvin Cannon scored 10.

Jonathan Mitchell, the only Hornet in double figures, led his team with 18 points.

Franks’ troubles connecting from outside, and a couple of quick fouls on C.J. Elleby that sent the energetic 6-6 freshman guard to the bench early, hurt WSU’s rhythm. . Elleby only scored four points, but he came on in the second half to grab eight rebounds.

Kent had his own theory for WSU’s troubles.

“I had this team over to my house for Thanksgiving,” he said. “In the first half, I thought I’d fed them too much turkey. We were stuck in second gear.”

After the Cougars host CSUN on Tuesday night, they travel to meet New Mexico State on Saturday.

Washington State will host Palouse rival Idaho on Dec. 5.

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