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Strong second half powers WSU past Seattle, 79-61

Tyrell Roberts leads the way with 17 points.

PULLMAN, WA - NOVEMBER 9: Washington State Men’s Basketball versus Alcorn State at Beasley Coliseum - Jefferson Koulibaly (3) Jack Ellis/CougCenter

The Washington State Cougars turned a slim halftime lead into a comfortable victory against the Seattle Redhawks on Friday, pulling away for a 79-61 win at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman.

Guard Tyrell Roberts led the Cougars (2-0) with 17 points powered by 4-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc, including 11 after the break in just nine minutes. The Redhawks (1-1) were led by Nate Robinson, also with 17 points.

Although the Cougars led for all but the first 2:29 of the game, Seattle was able to maintain contact throughout the first half, thanks largely to some excellent shooting from Robinson, who was 3-of-4 from beyond the arc on his way to a game-high 12 points in the opening period. WSU opened up a 9-point lead with just over 9 minutes to play, but Robinson kept Seattle in it, and the Redhawks chipped the lead down to just 3 points at halftime.

That's when things finally started to click for WSU: The Cougars opened the second half on a 12-3 run to build a 14-point lead. The attack came from all directions, as all five starters — Roberts, Michael Flowers, Noah Williams, Mouhamed Gueye, and a Efe Abogidi — scored during the run.

The remainder of the game was an awkward parade of free throws, as the referees called the game tight and the Redhawks committed 17 fouls — in all, WSU would shoot 33 free throws. They would make just 19 of them, denying themselves the unimitgated blowout they had earned.

WSU will return to action on Monday against UC Santa Barbara for its toughest test of the season. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. PT from Beasley Coliseum, with the game to be broadcast on Pac-12 Network.

Three Thoughts

Tyrell Roberts can really shoot: We heard before the season from people close to the program that Roberts’ shooting ability was impressive, and that has certainly been the case through the first two games — he’s hit 8-of-17 from beyond the arc so far. For my part, I assumed he’d be coming off the bench after transferring up from UC San Diego last offseason, given his stature (5-foot-11) didn’t fit with the sort of player Kyle Smith likes to rely on defensively on the outside. But if he’s going to keep hitting around 50% of his 3s, it doesn’t matter how short he is — there’s a place for significant minutes.

Turnovers coming down: Bringing down the number of possessions that end in turnover was a major point of emphasis for WSU after last season, and while the first game was still pretty sloppy in that regard, this one was much cleaner — just 12 turnovers overall, and only 5 in the second half. The team’s primary ball handlers (Roberts, Flowers, and Williams) combined for just 1 — one — turnover between them. That was especially impressive against a Seattle team that, last season, was really aggressive about taking the ball away. WSU was able to make the Redhawks pay again and again for their aggression, particularly in their use of skip passes to the corner for wide-open threes.

Already tired of the Ref Show: Referees have all kinds of emphases heading into the season as they’re charged with setting the tone for the year. And it usually results than more whistles out of the gate than usual. This year has been no different — WSU and its opponents have combined for nearly 100 personal fouls in the two games. I have to remind myself that it’s early in the season for the referees, too.

Did you see that?