PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) Ernie Kent’s first victory as coach of the Washington State Cougars did not come easy. In other words, it was precisely what he expected.
”I just told my staff, `Every one (game) is going to be that tough this year,”’ Kent said after the Cougars led by one at halftime before downing Idaho State 80-68 Friday night at Beasley Coliseum. ”They’re just going to be kind of grind-it-out games until we hit our rhythm.”
Josh Hawkinson and DaVonte’ Lacy certainly hit their rhythm in the second half. Hawkinson scored 18 of his 26 points after halftime, and Lacy poured in 21 of his 25 points in the final half. The Cougars (1-2) needed all the offense they could get to offset the 28-point effort of Chris Hansen for Idaho State (0-3).
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Hawkinson, a sophomore forward, posted career highs for points and rebounds (15). Lacy sank 6 of 9 shots from 3-point range in the second half after going 0 for 4 on 3’s in the first half.
”Everybody on the team just kept telling me to shoot – `The next one is going to fall,”’ Lacy said. ”All my 3’s were off assists. They did a great job of finding me.”
The Cougars also did a good job of feeding the ball to Hawkinson, who made his first collegiate start and recorded his second straight double-double.
”Tonight we focused more on getting the ball in the middle, then looked to the outside more so we collapsed the (2-3) zone,” Hawkinson said. ”My teammates found me in the middle, and I was fortunate to hit open shots.”
Idaho State coach Bill Evans bemoaned the fact that too many Cougars were left open. Hawkinson went 10 for 15 from the floor, and Lacy wound up 7 for 15 after going 1 for 6 in the opening half.
”Defensively, we weren’t great,” Evans said. ”We lost Lacy a couple times in the second half.”
The Bengals and Cougars ranked among the worst NCAA Division I teams in scoring and field-goal shooting percentage coming into the game. Both teams continued to struggle offensively in the first half, but WSU shot 51.7 percent in the second half and 40 percent for the game, and the Bengals shot 57.7 percent in the second half and 48.2 percent for the game.
”There were some positives,” Evans said. ”We did shoot the ball better. We took better care of the ball. We had been turning the ball over a high rate.”
Hansen, a senior swingman, played 35 minutes and had just one of Idaho State’s 10 turnovers. Hanson sank 10 of 18 shots from the field, including 4 of 8 treys.
”Chris Hansen played a wonderful game,” Lacy said.
Hansen scored 14 points each half. The Bengals trailed only 32-31 at intermission, but Lacy’s 3-pointers helped WSU pull away midway through the second half before an announced crowd of 2,138.
Idaho State: The Bengals are 0-22 against current Pac-12 Conference teams since winning 62-57 at Oregon in 1986-87. Idaho State is 1-7 all-time against the Cougars, with four straight losses.
Washington State: The Cougars have won 25 consecutive home openers in Pullman since losing 60-53 to Brigham Young in 1982-83. The Cougars lost their 2001-02 home opener to Colorado State in Spokane.
Kent won his first game since being fired after 13 years at Oregon at the end of the 2009-10 season.
The Cougars outrebounded the smaller Bengals 42-29, including 15-4 on the offensive glass.
Idaho State hosts Utah Valley on Wednesday.
Washington State plays UC Santa Barbara on Thursday at the Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage.