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WSU Men's Basketball

Tyrell Roberts gives Washington State offense much-needed lift in second half, scores 14 points in 66-59 win over California

Washington State’s Tyrell Roberts, right, scrambles for the ball against California on Wednesday in Las Vegas.  (Associated Press)

LAS VEGAS – For more than eight minutes in the second half of a Pac-12 Tournament opener against California, Tyrell Roberts was Washington State’s offensive lifeline.

For more than 3½ minutes, he was the only semblance of offensive life for either team Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena.

The junior guard supplied the first eight points of the second half for WSU and helped buoy the seventh-seeded Cougars during an otherwise bleak offensive stretch, finishing with 14 points in a 66-59 win over the 10th-seeded Golden Bears.

The Cougars didn’t need much on the offensive end playing against a California team that spent the better part of 40 minutes mired in its own slump, but Roberts delivered the buckets that allowed WSU to cling to a two-possession lead through the second half.

For a stretch in the second half, he was the only player on either team delivering buckets of any variety.

Roberts hit a 3-pointer two minutes into the half to help the Cougars establish a 13-point lead. Until Jordan Shepherd scored a driving layup at the 16:21 mark, it was the only basket for either team.

“We were a little tight because we came out in the beginning. We had some decent looks and they were physical,” WSU coach Kyle Smith said. “We had some post moves that didn’t go in. They did a good job of keeping us off the offensive boards and Ty finally hit one.”

Roberts hit two more for the Cougars, penetrating to the basket for a layup that made it 37-31 and connecting on a long, stepback 3-pointer to make it 40-33 with 13:42 remaining in the half.

Until Andrej Jakimovski made two free throws at the 11:42 mark, Roberts was the only WSU player to score. He was the only Cougar to make a shot from the field until TJ Bamba’s layup with 7:03 left. During a 13-minute stretch where Roberts went 4 for 4 from the field, seven other WSU players combined to go 0 of 18.

Informed of that statistic during a postgame press conference, Smith offered his gratitude to the transfer guard by embracing Roberts behind the podium.

“Coach (Jim) Shaw, our assistant coach, was kind of saying feed the hot hand a little bit,” Roberts said. “You saw I was hitting after my first one, so luckily they were able to go in. I was getting in the paint a little bit, creating, getting to the rack, and I was hitting my 3s.

“They were just falling tonight and my teammates just trusted me to keep hitting shots.”

Of Roberts’ 14 points, 11 came in the second half. The junior guard finished 5 of 9 from the field and 2 of 3 from the 3-point line.

“He’s been playing really well, too, since we had a little chat. A good talk. I told him he’s been doing good all year. He’s really hard on himself,” Smith said. “I said to not play last year and come from Division II and be a Pac-12 starter, play 30 minutes a game on a winning team, made a ton of 3s for us this year, he guards.

“He does a lot of good things, and now I think he’s really coming into his own. He scored 14 points on nine shots and picking his spots to drive and stuff like that. I’d say we’re going to be really good if this thing went to June. We’re still getting better.”