Another close win for WSU

WSU defeats Idaho 61-58; lowest margin of victory in the Battle of Palouse since 2013



Sophomore guard Noah Williams scored 19 points, 12 in the second half, to help WSU defeat Idaho.

RYAN ROOT, Evergreen reporter

Leave it to the WSU men’s basketball to have yet another late-game victory this time against their long-time rivals, the Idaho Vandals.

A second-half turnaround gave WSU (4-0) enough to defeat the Idaho Vandals (0-3) 61-58 on Wednesday at Beasley Coliseum during the 276th Battle of the Palouse. WSU’s all-time record against the Vandals extends to 166-110.

A 19-0 run in the second half allowed the Cougars to comeback against Idaho. The Cougars went from being down 36-27 to leading 46-36. Head coach Kyle Smith said the run gave the team great momentum after a lackluster first half.

Sophomore guard Noah Williams gave another great offense performance for WSU with a career-tying 19 points off 5-7 shooting and eight free throws. Williams also contributed four assists, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal.

Williams said it is great to record another win this season, regardless of the game being another late finish.

“The past three games, we’ve been down coming into the second half,” Williams said. “So, we know how to fight through adversity, and we’re pretty good at it.”

This is the second time Williams has had somewhat of a breakout game against Idaho in his WSU career. Williams said it does not matter who the opponent is, he is going to approach the game the same way every time.

“Everybody laces up their shoes the same way, so I got to respect everyone, respect every opponent, but I don’t fear none of them,” Williams said.

Freshman forward Andrej Jakimovski finally had a breakout game against Idaho after struggling in the first three games this season. He achieved a new career-high 11 points, which included three three-pointers. Jakimovski scored eight points during the team’s 19-0 run.

After each game this season, Jakimovski came out of the locker room and shot around in the empty Beasley Coliseum. He said that extra work really helps him develop as a freshman and get acclimated to American-style basketball.

“I just put in work, and that’s given me confidence,” Jakimovski said.

Both teams played physical right out the gate as there were a combined six fouls and five turnovers from both teams in the first five minutes alone. There were a combined 36 fouls once the final buzzer sounded.

After playing back-and-forth for the first couple of minutes, the Vandals took a 10-8 lead at one point. Once WSU scored its 11th point, the Cougars went almost eight minutes before scoring again, at that point the Vandals led 21-14 and would lead for the remainder of the half.

At halftime, the Vandals led the Cougars 29-23. Despite tying their lowest in a half this season with 23 points, the Cougars achieved a new season-high in first-half shooting percentage with 36 percent.

However, the Cougars shot just 44 percent from the free-throw line at halftime, the lowest first-half percentage this season for WSU.

At the start of the second half, WSU scored just four points in the first five minutes and still trailed to Idaho by nine points. During this period of time, Bonton was shooting just 1-4 and 1-2 from the line, and he even picked up a technical foul with 12 minutes to go; he was getting visibly frustrated.

Smith said he can put Bonton in for too long of stretches at times, and he blames himself a little for Bonton’s frustration this game.

After their initial struggles to start the second half, the Cougars, all of the sudden, started their 19-0 run.

The run lasted over five minutes, and once Idaho ended it with 8:33 to go, the Vandals crept up a bit to cut the lead down to five with seven minutes left.

Despite the Vandals making a quiet comeback, WSU kept its foot on the gas pedal. As Bonton was still struggling with some open looks, Williams took it upon himself to lead the Cougars on offense in order to finish the game on top.

But of course, this would not be a 2020 Cougar basketball game without a nail-biting finish.

Although WSU led the game by 11 points with under four minutes to go, the Vandals kept fighting their way back into the game. Eventually, Idaho was down by one with 51 seconds left.

A follow up offensive possession for WSU took almost the entirety of the shot clock, but a late pull-up jumper from Bonton gave WSU a three-point lead with 23 seconds left.

Idaho cut the lead back down to one 10 seconds later, but a pair of free throws from Williams put the game away for WSU. Since 2013, 61-58 is the closest margin of victory for a Battle of the Palouse matchup.

WSU’s next game against Portland State will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at Beasley Coliseum. Fans will not be allowed to attend, but the game will air on the Pac-12 Network.