PULLMAN — As Efe Abogidi battled foul trouble and Issac Bonton drudged through an off night, Noah Williams quietly kept Washington State in the game.
Until the final few minutes, that is, when Williams made game-changing plays that pushed the Cougars over the top.
Williams scored a career-high 19 points Saturday, lifting WSU to a 71-68 come-from-behind victory against Eastern Washington at Beasley Coliseum. The sophomore poured in 12 points in the final 10:28, adding crucial assists, steals and rebounds along the way, then capped his night by drawing a charge on Eastern Washington’s Kim Aiken with 3.4 seconds remaining.
Three nights after a frustrating zero-point showing in WSU’s season-opening 56-52 win against Texas Southern, Williams did it all for the Cougs, complementing his scoring with eight rebounds, four steals and three assists.
“He’s a confident guy,” WSU coach Kyle Smith said. “He’s a believer. He might have some rough patches, but he’s always going to come back swinging hard. He got us home tonight. He really just said I’m going to step up and do this. I thought he took good shots ... he took one bad one in the first half and talked to him about it at halftime. He stepped up with confidence, and that gave our team a lot of confidence too.”
Williams’ back-to-back 3-pointers gave the Cougars (2-0) a 61-59 lead with 4:48 remaining in the second half.
He assisted TJ Bamba on WSU’s next basket and, as time ticked down, scored four consecutive points of his own, then had another assist to Volodymyr Markovetskyy, whose dunk pushed WSU’s lead to 69-65 with 44 seconds remaining.
Williams’ final heroics came on defense. With WSU ahead 69-68, he drew an offensive foul on Aiken. Bonton then made two free throws at the other end to cap the victory.
“His energy was phenomenal,” Abogidi said. “It’s great to have someone like that on your team. He’s doing a lot for the team right now.”
Eastern Washington (0-1), which traveled here without five players because of coronavirus issues, led by 13 points early and didn’t trail until the 13:53 mark of the second half. The defending Big Sky Conference champions started out hot on offense, going 4 of 6 from outside as Washington State struggled to get into a rhythm.
Bamba’s 3 cut the Cougars’ deficit to two points with 3:13 left in the first, but it was quickly answered by an 8-0 EWU run. WSU trailed 39-33 at the break.
Abogidi opened the second half with seven quick points, cutting WSU’s deficit to 42-40, and Myles Fitzgerald-Warren gave the Cougs their first lead of the night on a layup a few series later.
Abogidi scored 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting before fouling out with 7:53 to go in the game.
Bonton, who led WSU with 28 points in Wednesday’s game, had 11 points on 3-of-16 shooting in this one. After Abogidi, Bamba was WSU’s next-highest scorer with nine.
After two consecutive close games, Washington State’s schedule gets tougher. The Cougars host Oregon State on Wednesday before traveling to Colorado on Dec. 5.
“If we just play as hard as we’ve been playing and just keep on fighting through adversity, we can win a lot of games this year,” Williams said.
E. WASHINGTON (0-1)
T.Groves 7-12 1-1 17, Davison 4-9 2-2 12, Perry 2-8 2-3 8, Aiken 5-10 2-3 14, J.Groves 6-16 3-5 16, Meadows 0-3 1-2 1. Totals 24-58 11-16 68.
WASHINGTON ST. (2-0)
Kunc 2-7 1-3 6, Rodman 0-3 0-0 0, Abogidi 4-5 1-1 10, Bonton 3-16 3-4 11, Williams 7-13 2-2 19, Jakimovski 2-9 0-0 6, Bamba 4-5 0-0 9, Fitzgerald-Warren 2-5 0-0 4, Chatfield 2-2 0-0 4, Markovetskyy 1-1 0-0 2, Rapp 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 27-68 7-10 71.
Halftime—E. Washington 39-33. 3-Point Goals—E. Washington 9-29 (Davison 2-5, T.Groves 2-5, Aiken 2-6, Perry 2-7, J.Groves 1-5, Meadows 0-1), Washington St. 10-30 (Williams 3-4, Bonton 2-6, Jakimovski 2-6, Abogidi 1-1, Bamba 1-1, Kunc 1-5, Rapp 0-2, Rodman 0-2, Fitzgerald-Warren 0-3). Fouled Out—Abogidi. Rebounds—E. Washington 35 (T.Groves 9), Washington St. 40 (Williams 8). Assists—E. Washington 14 (T.Groves 4), Washington St. 15 (Williams, Jakimovski, Bamba 3). Total Fouls—E. Washington 15, Washington St. 20.
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