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Sports >  WSU basketball

Washington State overpowers Seattle U in the second half, cruises to 2-0 start

Nov. 12, 2021 Updated Fri., Nov. 12, 2021 at 11:44 p.m.

By Colton Clark The Spokesman-Review

PULLMAN – Self-described as “usually pretty mild-mannered,” Washington State coach Kyle Smith was uncharacteristically “hot” at the half.

His Cougar men’s basketball team – which enjoyed a significant edge in height, length and brawn – was getting outworked on the glass by nonconference opponent Seattle U.

So, Smith challenged his big men.

“I think our size should wear down a team like that,” he said. “We responded in a good way.”

WSU overpowered the Redhawks after the break, and the Cougars put their improved scoring depth on display in a 79-61 runaway Friday night at Beasley Coliseum.

The Cougs (2-0) outrebounded the Redhawks (1-1) by 10 and limited their in-state foes to 27.6% shooting in the second half.

“(Smith) made an emphasis to go rebound and put bodies on people in the paint,” said center Dishon Jackson, who posted 13 points and nine boards. “That’s what we did.”

Seattle U, which had a seven-rebound advantage and only trailed by three at intermission, couldn’t keep up.

The rangy Cougs closed off clean looks for the Redhawks in transition and at the perimeter as WSU opened a double-digit lead early in the second period and maintained its cushion the rest of the way.

Joining Jackson with double-figure scoring outputs were guards Noah Williams and Tyrell Roberts, and freshman post Mouhamed Gueye.

Williams showed off his versatility, logging 13 points on 6 of 10 from the floor to go along with seven rebounds. He sparked WSU out of the locker room with a wraparound assist, an offensive board – leading to his own putback – and another assist to an open Roberts for a triple.

“That’s just Noah getting a little more of his swagger back,” Smith said. “We’re all getting comfortable with one another.”

Roberts canned four 3s – two of them from way beyond the arc – and finished with a team high in points (17) for the second straight game to begin his Cougar career.

Gueye tallied 10 points and three steals and fellow high-flying forward Efe Abogidi swatted four Redhawk shot attempts. Bouncy guard TJ Bamba logged eight points and nine rebounds.

“Anybody can take over the game at any time,” Jackson said. “That’s the best feeling, when you’ve got a line of guys who want to be good and who put in the work every day. That’s what we do.

“Last year, we depended on two guys to do a lot of the scoring. … I really think this is a better team. We’re going to go further.”

The Cougars sprinted out to a 15-point buffer after four minutes in the second half, a tear highlighted by deft plays from Williams and physically imposing frontcourt efforts from Jackson and Abogidi.

Seattle U hung around, but could never get closer than nine points away with 5:26 remaining. Second-chance scores from Bamba and DJ Rodman, and a traditional three-point play from Jackson, closed the door.

Nine players scored for the Cougars, who shot 48% to offset a rough night from the foul line (19 of 33).

“Down the line, you just got a bunch of scorers,” Bamba said. “Our depth is crazy. At any time, if somebody’s lacking, somebody else can step into the game and pick us right up.”

Both teams relied on the 3-ball in the first half, combining for 28 attempts from distance. The Cougars were more patient with their offense later on.

WSU fashioned a nine-point lead after a 10-0 run early in the game, but the Redhawks stayed in it with sharpshooting and aggressive play underneath from their frontcourt tandem of Viktor Rajkovi and Brandton Chatfield, a WSU transfer and Clarkston High grad.

“I was like, ‘Come on, fellas. No one wants to see Brandton succeed more than me, but not tonight,’ ” Smith said, remembering his halftime talk. “The fact we were outrebounded by seven was disappointing, and our free-throw shooting. We responded well. We should have a team to wear you down. We’ve got depth, we’ve got good size. As they get older and more mature and more confident, hopefully that’ll be the mark of our team.”

The Redhawks were playing their first game since coach Jim Hayford resigned Thursday following a report that he had used a racial slur. He’d been on paid administrative leave since late last week.

Seattle U topped Alcorn State on Wednesday on a buzzer-beater from former Idaho guard Cameron Tyson, who WSU held to three points on 1 of 8 shooting.

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