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WSU advances in NIT with win over top-seeded SMU

The Cougars handed the Mustangs their first home loss of the season.

NCAA Basketball: Oregon at Washington State
Washington State Cougars forward Efe Abogidi (0) celebrates after a game against the Oregon Ducks at Friel Court at Beasley Coliseum.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington State Cougars advanced to the quarterfinals of the NIT with a win over the SMU Mustangs in the second round, 75-63.

Despite a late rally from SMU (24-9), it proved to be too little too late as WSU (21-14) ended the game on an 11-3 run kicked off by a massive dunk from Efe Abogidi and a deep dagger three from Michael Flowers.

The win sends WSU to Provo, Utah, on Wednesday to face No. 2 seed BYU for the right to advance to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden. The game will tip off at 6 p.m. PT and will be broadcast on ESPN2.

Just like the opening round, WSU’s defense showed out early. The Cougars held the Mustangs to just seven points in the first 10:39 of game time. WSU’s offense benefitted from a large collection of second chance points as the Cougars reeled in 12 first-half offensive rebounds. A healthy scoring balance helped hand the Cougs the early 12-point lead just over halfway through the first period.

The defense continued to harass the Mustang offense, holding the Mustangs to just 32% from the field in the first half. The stout defense combined with an offense scoring 15 second-chance points helped send WSU into the halftime break with a dominant 19-point lead.

The Cougs kept SMU at bay for the first five minutes of the half, never letting SMU pull within less than 15. But the Mustangs began to make the Cougs start to sweat with a 14-2 run to make it a seven-point game with 11:36 to go, thanks largely to the play of SMU’s point guard, Kendric Davis — the AAC player of the year.

SMU continued to push, but WSU held firm at the seven-point gap. The Mustangs finally broke through that seven-point wall WSU created with a 6-0 run built off four free throws to make it a four-point game in the final 3:11. With SMU only trailing by four with 2:27 to go, Efe Abogidi took off from San Antonio and threw down a vicious dunk over an SMU defender to make it a six-point game.

On the ensuing WSU possession, Flowers delivered the dagger three with a shot from the U in the SMU logo to put the Cougars up nine with 1:45 to go. WSU knocked down six free throws in the final 1:14 as SMU played the foul game to give WSU the 75-63 victory — the only win this season by a visiting team in the 2021-22 season.

WSU again was dominant defensively, never letting the Mustangs lead at any point in the game. Flowers was brilliant, scoring 22 points and pulling closer to Klay Thompson’s single-season three-point record with a trio of threes. Abogidi picked up all three blocks for the Cougs while adding 12 points and eight rebounds.