PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) The Washington State basketball team aced its last test on the court before final exams week kicks off Monday, downing UTEP 84-68 Sunday afternoon at Friel Court.
The Cougars recorded season bests in shooting from the field and from 3-point range against a Miners squad that was ranked 18th in the nation in defending both types of shots.
Not that anyone seemed all that impressed with the Miners’ defense Sunday.
”They weren’t too good of a 3-point defensive team,” WSU star Josh Hawkinson said, ”so we tried our best to exploit them on that.”
”We’re not a very good defensive team right now,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd saidl.
Hawkinson, working inside for the most part, led all players with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Conor Clifford, another effective post player for WSU (6-2), made all five of his field-goal tries and all five of his free throws for 15 points.
”They thoroughly dominated us with their two big men inside,” Floyd said.
The Cougars shot 55.3 percent from the field, including 50 percent from beyond the 3-point arc (8 for 16). Reserve swingman Derrien King, a junior college transfer who had five points and one rebound in brief appearances in three games, buried all three of his first-half shots – all from 3-point range – and finished with 10 points and six rebounds.
”My teammates just did a really good job of finding me when I was open,” King said, ”and coach (Ernie Kent) had a lot of confidence in me.”
Kent said, ”I’m really proud and happy for Derrien, because he’s another piece to the puzzle that joined the party in this game.
”There’s a couple more guys sitting over there, when they get on their games, this team has a chance to be really good offensively.”
The Cougars are already faring quite well, averaging 78.4 points per game and shooting 50.2 percent from the floor.
”They shot the ball extremely well,” UTEP point guard Domnnic Artis said, ”and they were able to get to the free-throw line and get their rhythm there.”
In addition to their impressive offensive performance, the Cougars held UTEP (6-3) to 36.5 percent shooting from the field, including 22.7 percent on 3-pointers (5 for 22). Lee Moore led a balanced UTEP attack with 13 points, but he went 4 for 16 from the field.
The Cougars, who were outrebounded 39-22 in a Thursday loss at Idaho, topped the Miners 38-36 on the boards.
”I thought they played really, really well coming off of a loss in their last game,” Floyd said.
The Cougars led 39-33 at the break, then pulled away midway through the second half when the game began turning into something of a free-throw marathon. The teams combined for 47 fouls and 62 free throws.
UTEP: The Miners’ only victory in the past 15 nonconference road games came at Washington State on Dec. 21, 2013.
Washington State: The Cougars lead opponents 58-12 in blocked shots after topping the Miners 9-1. WSU came into the day ranked third in the nation with 7.0 blocks per game. ”It always helps to have a shot changer down there,” said Artis, who played against WSU in the Pac-12 when he spent two years at Oregon. ”It takes a lot of pressure off the guards, knowing that someone’s coming weak side.” The nine blocks are a season high for the Cougars.
DOUBLE THE FUN
Hawkinson has recorded three consecutive double-doubles, and five for the season. Last season, he ranked fourth in the nation with a school-record 20 double-doubles.
UTEP hosts New Mexico State on Saturday.
Washington State hosts Texas State on Friday.