With forward D.J. Shelton out due to suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules, Ken Bone relied heavily on Charlie Enquist, and the Edmonds native delivered in a big way.
There were other notable performance in the Cougars victory over Eastern Washington on Saturday, but the play of Enquist, dubbed "The Diesel" by fans, was the key. Too few times this season has there been a lack of ferocity and energy in the low post. Enquist brought all of that and more on Saturday.
Enquist had his best night ever in a Cougar jersey, finishing with 20 points, 13 rebounds, in 31 minutes. All were career-highs for Enquist as he recorded his first career double-double at Wazzu.
"It's always nice to see a guy get rewarded who is a very hard worker," Bone said. "He's a great team guy and you just like to see guys like that have good games and have success. We are really happy and as a team -- we pointed out what he had done in the locker room and everybody just started cheering for him."
ENQUIST IS ONE of the biggest hustle players for the Cougars both in practices, and it was clear his teammates are big fans.
"I've always thought that Charlie was good, he's always been athletic," said Reggie Moore, who had one of this best games of the season with 15 points. "He's been battling DeAngelo (Casto) in practice for a while so that's going to make you a lot better."
Moore added that all Enquist needs is that bit of swagger to his game to continue to succeed each night.
"I know Mike Ladd and I always try and make sure he has some confidence," Moore said. "Charlie's good just as long as he stays confident and (his performance) is no big surprise to me."
As the game wore on, Enquist looked more confident, more energized. He became the aggressor on the boards, and didn’t hesitate to throw his body into the mix.
"I'm pretty sure every point I scored was a dish from one of my teammates," Enquist said. "DaVonté (Lacy), and Reggie, and even Brock (Motum) would drive and my man would pick them up -- so I'd get to the hoop and finish. That's all I had to do."
Not exactly. There was one play near the end of the game where Enquist seized the rebound, turned back and flushed it, with all five EWU players within a few feet.
"I just realized that this is my last year and I want to go out with a bang," Enquist said. "This summer in every workout, every stair we ran, every sprint we did, I'd give my effort to the fullest and I'm glad to see it's finally paying off."
THE PLAY OF Moore was a welcome sight, although he had a season high nine turnovers. Coming into the night Moore was averaging only 7.3 points per game, but he blew that number out of the water. Moore, who scored 11 points in the first half, finished with 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting including 2-of-3 from downtown.
What was most impressive about Moore's performance was his ability to shoot off the dribble. Time after time, Moore would get the ball at the top of the key, drive into the lane and knock down a pull-up jumper. Moore displayed this nice move in the winding seconds of the first half as he put the Cougars up 41-25 going into half following a 15-footer.
Because he drove the lane with success, Moore became a distraction for Eagles defenders, especially in the first half. As an Eagle would slide over to help out, it led to some easy lay-ins, with Enquist the main beneficiary of these plays.
"We asked Reggie today at shoot around to be more assertive and look to score tonight and be aggressive to score," Bone said. "He said no problem, I'll do it."
Motum was a steady presence on the night, scoring 15 points and adding six rebounds. And redshirt freshman Dexter Kernich-Drew who saw increased minutes with Faisal Aden ruled out with a concussion. Kernich-Drew had a career high 10 points in 22 minutes with nine of those points coming in the first half. Kernich-Drew’s tomahawk slam and 4-point play in the first half energized not just the Cougs on the floor, but the ones in the stands as well.
"We need that extra depth, we've talked about that since day one this year," Bone said. "Dexter for one showed tonight that maybe we can count on him a little bit more. We see it in practice but we have to see it in a game to really believe sometimes."
Bone said Shelton has been suspended indefinitely for inappropriate actions. He declined to comment further. Bone said he will talk with Shelton and they will move forward from there.
Bone said Aden started complaining of headaches to team trainers on Friday morning-- it was later deemed he had suffered a concussion. Bone added that Aden told him he thinks it could have come on a play when he got hit against Grambling State.