The Washington State Cougars passed their first big test of the season with flying colors on Thanksgiving when they came back from yet another second half deficit to defeat the Saint Joseph’s Hawks, 75-71.
The Cougs trailed 71-70 with 25 seconds to go after St. Joe’s hit a pair of free throws. The ensuing WSU possession didn’t generate much of anything going to the basket, so with time running out, Malachi Flynn hoisted a three off the dribble. It was pure, and the Cougs led by two with six seconds to play.
WSU pressured the inbounds, and the Hawks stepped on the sideline to give the ball right back. Viont’e Daniels, who finished with 17 points, calmly hit a pair of free throws to seal the victory.
Robert Franks had another big game with 19 points and seven rebounds, including 15 points in the second half. Daniels did most of his damage from beyond the arc, hitting 5-of-6 from downtown, part of a barrage of threes by WSU: Their 16 made threes are a new tournament record. That was a season high for the Cougs, and only two shy of the school record.
It’s an incredibly nice win for WSU, which features a youthful roster from which not a whole lot was expected — Saint Joseph’s is the rough equivalent of a middling Pac-12 team.
Now, the difficulty ramps up even more: WSU will take on No. 21 St. Mary’s in the semifinals on Friday. Regardless of the outcome, it’s already been a successful tournament.