An empty chair sat at the end of Washington State’s bench at the beginning of the game. Coach Ernie Kent was on the opposite side of the court, seated next to Idaho coach Don Verlin.
Both coaches lost their fathers to cancer, so when Verlin donated a “Coach for a Day” package to an auction for Coaches vs. Cancer, Kent beat out other bidders and chose to spend the first 30 seconds of the game on Idaho’s bench.
“I don’t think anybody’s ever seen that anywhere in the country, where opposing coaches stood on one side of the field, sat on another team’s bench, sat in another team’s dugout,” Kent said. “But that’s not the importance of what transpired. It was the fact that you have coaches, again coaches, standing up for such a worthy cause.”
Kent said it ranked near the top of his favorite coaching memories, as it brought awareness to trying to find a cure for cancer.
Kent’s Washington State team beat cross-border rival Idaho 61-48 on Wednesday night in the 271st meeting.
Ike Iroegbu had 16 points and seven rebounds for Washington State (5-4), which scored the first four points of the game, never trailed and led by 18 in the second half. Malachi Flynn added 12 points before getting into foul trouble and the Cougars shot 39 percent from the field. Josh Hawkinson had his 47th career double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Washington State snapped a two-game losing streak to the Vandals in the oldest continuous rivalry west of the Mississippi.
Idaho (4-4), coming off a win against UC Davis, shot 26 percent from the field. Victor Sanders lead the Vandals with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting.
Down 11 points at the half, the Vandals never got within single digits in the second half as they went seven minutes without scoring. Washington State also went scoreless for five-plus minutes after halftime.
Idaho turned it over 14 times but grabbed 20 offensive rebounds. Verlin said the team’s biggest issue was not being able to score.
“Just missed a bunch of shots. You gotta give credit to Washington State,” Verlin said. “Their defense’s size really bothered us around the basket. We just didn’t score our ball the way we needed to tonight.”
The all-time series record belongs to the Cougars, who have won 162 meetings compared to Idaho’s 109.
“Those games are always the fun games, you know,” Iroegbu said. “Especially UW, Idaho, Gonzaga, those are the games where you see your schedule come out every year and you circle them, get ready for that one. And when you’re in the gym by yourself, those are the teams you think about playing, one of those three teams here at Washington State. These rivalry games are really important to us.”
Idaho: The Vandals will continue their road trip and play at South Dakota State on Dec. 10. They have two games left before Big Sky Conference play.
Washington State: The Cougars will travel to face the Big 12’s Kansas State.
IDAHO STATE MEN’S BASKETBALL: Bronson Koenig scored 21 points, Ethan Happ had 12 points and 12 rebounds, and No. 17 Wisconsin rolled past the Bengals 78-44 in Madison, Wisc. The Badgers (8-2) held Bengals’ leading scorer Ethan Telfair (19.8 ppg) to two points on 1-of-9 shooting. Balint Mocsan had 10 points to lead Idaho State (1-8), which was outrebounded 47-21.
NORTHWEST NAZARENE VOLLEYBALL: Madi Farrell (first team) and Kendra Bodine (honorable mention) were named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American team.