Wooden Legacy post-game notes & quotes, Washington State 84, Saint Mary’s 79

Wooden Chips
• Washington State’s win means that a PAC-12 team will be in the Wooden Legacy championship game for the fifth time in tournament history (also in 2007, 2012, 2014 and 2016)… PAC-12 teams are 4-0 when playing for the title in this tournament.
• Washington State is the fifth different PAC-12 team to advance to the championship in this event (along with USC, Cal, Washington and UCLA).

Washington State (5-0)
• Playing in its fifth ESPN event (6-8 record in those)… the Cougars are now 2-3 in Wooden Legacy games.
• WSU got its first win over an Associated Press Top-25 team since defeating No. 25 UCLA, Jan. 3, 2016…highest ranked team defeated since defeating No. 18 Washington, Jan. 30, 2011.
• The Cougars led 42-40 at halftime, just their second halftime lead of the season… still, they were able to outscore their foes in the second half as they have each game this year.
• WSU made and attempted season-high first-half free throws, going 9-for-10…previous high was 4-for-6 against Texas Southern, Nov. 12.
• Entering the game, WSU averaged 19.5 points in the paint per game…at halftime it had 20 points in the paint and finished with 42.
• Malachi Flynn scored 26 points, the third time in his career surpassing the 20 point plateau… he also pulled down seven rebounds, tying for the second most in his career.

Saint Mary’s (5-1)
• Playing in its fifth ESPN event (6-8 record in those)… the Gaels are now 4-4 in Wooden Legacy games.
• Saint Mary’s snapped a winning streak of 64 games when shooting at least 50% FG (last loss was 12/23/13 at Hawai’i)… still, Saint Mary’s has shot at least 50% FG in five of its six games this season.
• Saint Mary’s is one of two teams in this tournament to have the same starting lineup in every game this season (along with Georgia)… last year Saint Mary’s used the same starters in all 34 games.
• Defensively, Saint Mary’s allowed WSU to shoot 33-56 FG (.589)… since the start of the 2015-16 season, this marks just the seventh time the Gaels have allowed a team to eclipse 50% from the floor… Gonzaga did it five times, then New Mexico State earlier this month prior to Saint Mary’s today.
• Jordan Ford scored a career high 15 points, the fifth time in his career in double figures… Saint Mary’s is now 18-2 when he scores at least one point.
• Emmett Naar led the team with 17 points and seven assists… this marked a rare loss, as the Gaels are now 33-3 when he has at least seven assists.

Washington State Head Coach Ernie Kent:

(On the team’s victory)- “Saint Mary’s is a really good team and it’s very difficult to close out really good teams as evident by the end of the game there, they just cam right back at us again. They made us accountable to everything and we got better. This is a young team that got better throughout this tournament so far and really throughout that ball game because they are really good  and you cannot fall asleep for a second, you have to pay attention to detail on defense and offense. I thought we did an excellent job and obviously this floor general right here (Malachi Flynn) was just superb.”

(On the team’s defense) – “I thought the second half defensively, without having to play the one-three-one, digging in and playing a tough man-to-man, we were superb. I think they were stuck on 62 points for a while there and we really did a nice job of taking a really good offensive team and taking them out of their rhythm.”

(On what this win can do for a young team) – “I thought this summer we really started to come together when everybody got to campus and  everything… Every new challenge has been a learning process for them. We had an exhibition game in our place against San Francisco and did not play well in a closed door scrimmage and ever since then we continue to grow up a little bit with each challenge.”

(On a young team playing for a championship) – “It’s huge to be in the type of environment that the competition is tough, everybody is  well prepared, teams are sitting here watching you play and you’re on that stage and to be able to handle that and play two games back-to-back is just huge growth of this team so far. The good thing about it is we have huge growth potential still so this next  challenge of playing in a championship game on ESPN in another environment is just going to allow us to grow. Win or lose the game we’re going to get better.”

Washington sophomore guard Malachi Flynn:

(On the young team growing up) – “I think we came out with a lot of energy. We knew it was going to be a tough team that ran their stuff, makes open shots, makes us work on offense and defense, so we just had to come with energy. It was 10:30 a.m. game, not too many people in the crowd  so we had to come out and hit them first with a lot of energy. My teammates did a great job, they hit open shots, they worked on defense, it was a great team effort.”

Saint Mary’s Head Coach Randy Bennett
(Opening statement) – “It’s simple, we didn’t guard well enough to beat a tough team like Washington State, our defense has been a weakness all year. We don’t have that much time to fix it right now, but we are going to do whatever we can to straighten it out.”

Saint Mary’s junior forward Calvin Hermanson
(On defense) – “It starts with knowing your opponent. We didn’t play well defensively and this probably was one of our worst games for defense this season. We have to become tougher mentally and stop letting guys beat us.”