Washington State (22-14) rode the hot hand of Michael Flowers down the stretch, who scored 15 points as WSU outscored BYU (24-11) in the second half by 10. Flowers would finish with a game-high 27 points to help WSU secure a ticket to Madison Square Garden.
Both teams traded body blows early on with BYU having the edge. BYU built a lead up to six with 9:37 to go in the first half before WSU began to chip away. Dishon Jackson kept the Cougs afloat by dominating offensively in the paint, scoring double-digit points (10) in a half for the first time all season. BYU couldn’t get anything to fall from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes, shooting 1-10 from three in the first half as the Cougars of Washington State began to pull closer, taking their first lead of the game with 8:22 to go.
WSU began to separate later in the half. Flowers knocked down a jumper to kick off a 12-0 run to give WSU a nine-point lead just before the three-minute mark. The teams knocked traded baskets in the final two and a half minutes to give WSU a 35-26 halftime lead.
Behind a raucous home crowd, BYU came out swinging to open the second half. What once was a nine-point Cougar halftime lead, shrunk to just three with a 13-7 BYU run. Tyrell Roberts had enough of the BYU run and went on a personal 8-0 run with a pair of threes and two free throws sandwiched in between to hand WSU an 11-point lead. Roberts then passed the baton to Flowers who made history by passing Klay Thompson for the most threes made in a single season by a WSU player with his 99th made three—and he did it in style with a four-point play.
Flowers didn’t stop there. The record-setting three was just the first of 13-straight points from the new three-point champ, pushing WSU’s lead to 17 with just 7:16 to go. A 7-0 WSU run pushed WSU’s lead up to an insurmountable 22 point-lead with 4:51 standing in between WSU and a trip to the Big Apple. Some garbage-time buckets late pushed BYU under the 20-point deficit mark but it would be far too little and far too late. For the second time in program history, WSU will be headed to the NIT semi-finals.
Before, a nine-point lead on the road against a Quad 1 opponent seemed intimidating. Now, this team knows how to win these games. It speaks volumes to how far this team has come. The leadership and toughness to battle through the adversity and the gut-punch after gut-punch this team has taken, has begun to show. This is a truly different team than the one we were watching two months ago. They’ve earned every bit of this trip to New York to play in Madison Square Garden.
But the job is not done yet.
The Cougars will take on the Texas A&M Aggies on March 29th at 6:30PM PDT with a chance to play in the NIT Championship on the line.