PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — Washington State coach Ernie Kent gave Dexter Kernich-Drew his first start since the fourth game of the season, and Kernich-Drew gave Kent the performance of a lifetime.
Kernich-Drew, starting for the first time since Nov. 27, scored a career-high 27 points to lead the Cougars to a 74-71 triumph over Arizona State on Friday night at Beasley Coliseum.
“Dexter was . just a fabulous game,” Kent said. “I’m very proud of him, and I’m extremely happy for him.”
Kernich-Drew was averaging just 4.4 points per game despite recording his previous season high of 18 points last Sunday at Oregon. He set career highs with nine field goals made (on 12 attempts) and five free throws made (on five attempts).
“I obviously had the hot hand,” said Kernich-Drew, a senior wing from Australia. “Shots were going in.”
“He stepped up tonight when we needed it,” teammate DaVonte Lacy said.
Kernich-Drew’s high-arcing 3-pointer with 39.1 seconds left barely beat the shot-clock buzzer and gave the Cougars a 71-66 lead. That helped offset a torrid finish by Gerry Blakes, who scored Arizona State’s final 16 points en route to a season-high 24. Blakes buried a 3-pointer as time expired.
Lacy scored 17 points for the Cougars (11-13, 5-7 Pac-12), who moved past Arizona State (12-12, 4-7) into eighth place. Tra Holder scored 14 points for the Sun Devils. Eric Jacobsen added 12.
Arizona State led 34-29 after a tightly contested first half in which the Sun Devils dominated inside. In the opening half, Arizona State outscored WSU 26-12 in the paint and had a 12-0 advantage in second-chance points. The Sun Devils outrebounded WSU 25-10 in the half, including 10-1 in offensive rebounds.
Washington State’s inside game fared better in the second half, when the Cougars scored 45 points on 59.3 percent shooting from the field. The Cougars shot 51.9 percent for the game and held Arizona State to 44.4 percent.
“Our inability to get stops was our downfall in the second half,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said.
The Cougars had lost six of seven games since starting 3-1 in conference play. The Sun Devils, who started 0-4 in the Pac-12, defeated then-No. 6 Arizona last Saturday for their fourth victory in six games. Arizona State fell to 1-9 in away games.
Blakes, who hit 10 of 21 shots, scored 18 points in the second half. Blakes said poor defensive play was to blame for the loss, not any mental letdown after the upset of Arizona.
“I think we prepared well,” Blakes said.
The Sun Devils lost a key defensive player when Bo Barnes was lost to a sprained right ankle after 15 minutes of play.
“Bo is coming off a great game, and that was a tough injury,” Sendek said.
Arizona State: Savon Goodman led all players with five offensive rebounds and a career-high 14 total rebounds. He added eight points, but Goodman had four of ASU’s 15 turnovers.
Washington State: Josh Hawkinson, who was averaging 15.1 points, scored his only six points in the second half. The Pac-12 rebounding leader did grab a team-high nine boards.
STREAKY SUN DEVILS
Arizona State had won three in a row against WSU, but the Cougars have won nine of the past 11 games with ASU in Pullman.
Arizona State visits Washington on Sunday.
Washington State hosts No. 7 Arizona on Sunday.
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