The Washington State University Cougars ran their record to 5-0 with a 78-69 win over Nicholls State on Friday in Anchorage, Alaska, and, as a result, moved into the championship of the Great Alaska Shootout.
The Cougars will face San Diego, a 72-65 winner over Houston, in tonight’s final.
Klay Thompson led the Cougars with 21 points and six assists and DeAngelo Casto added 18 and a career-high 14 rebounds, but both sophomores scored their points in bunches.
Thompson had 10 points in the first 9 minutes, 2 seconds of the game, then scored his final 11 in the first 9:29 of the second half. He had seven of those in a 1:05 stretch to expand a WSU three-point lead to 10 with 12:18 left.
From there, Nicholls State, which led 31-29 at the half, would get no closer than seven.
Casto played a big part in that, hitting two 10-foot jumpers to help keep the Colonels (0-7) at bay.
The Cougars kept Nicholls State, from the Southland Conference, in the game by turning the ball over 16 times, 10 in the first half.
But after Casto scored on a fastbreak layup with 16:31 left to give them their first second-half lead at 36-35 – part of six consecutive points the 6-foot-8 post had – WSU went more than 8 minutes without a turnover. That fueled a 25-9 run that was just enough to advance WSU.
Reggie Moore added 14 and Marcus Capers 10 for WSU. The Cougars shot 59.1 percent from the floor and hit half of their 12 3-point shots. WSU outrebounded the Colonels 33-23 and hit 20 of 27 free throws.
Nicholls State’s Fred Hunter, a 6-foot-6 forward, led all scorers with 25 points.
WSU 78, Nicholls State 69
Percentages: FG .439, FT .733. 3-Point Goals: 8-23, .348 (Bose 3-8, Hunter 2-5, Friend 1-3, Franklin Jr. 1-2, Iles 0-3). Team Rebounds: 9. Blocked Shots: 0. Turnovers: 11 (Friend 3, Bose 2, Hunter 2, Franklin Jr. 2, McCallum, Smith). Steals: 6 (Hunter 3, Bose, Ayers, Carter). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .591, FT .741. 3-Point Goals: 6-12, .500 (Thompson 3-6, Moore 2-3, Koprivica 1-2, Harthun 0-1). Team Rebounds: 1. Blocked Shots: 5 (Capers 2, Thompson 2, Casto). Turnovers: 16 (Casto 4, Thompson 3, Thames 3, Moore 2, Capers 2, Lodwick, Harthun). Steals: 4 (Thompson 2, Casto, Lodwick). Technical Fouls: None.
Halftime–Nicholls State 31, Washington State 29. A–5,657.