Williams leads Cougars to fifth straight win

For the third time this season, sophomore guard Noah Williams leads the Cougs in scoring with 18 points



Sophomore and freshman guards Noah Williams and TJ Bamba combined for 33 points in the win.

RYAN ROOT, Evergreen reporter

In the ninth all-time matchup between WSU and Portland State, the Cougars (5-0) remain undefeated against the Vikings (1-2).

WSU defeated Portland State 69-60 after another leading performance from sophomore guard Noah Williams, who finished with 18 points on 8-12 shooting, five rebounds and one steal.

Williams has now led the Cougars in scoring in three of their five games this season.

“It’s a big step up for him,” senior guard Isaac Bonton said. “Noah has that ability.”

Bonton, who is from the Portland area, said this win meant a little more to him. He said he had a couple of friends on the Portland State roster, but he certainly did not want to lose this game.

“Me and my teammates know that I don’t like losing to any team from Oregon,” Bonton said. “I always got that chip on my shoulder.”

Bonton finished the game with 16 points on 5-13 shooting and brought down five rebounds as well.

Freshman guard TJ Bamba had a breakout game of his own with 15 points off the bench, eight of which came from the free-throw line. Bamba said it felt good to have a big performance, but he credited his teammates for helping him get those scoring opportunities.

“I was sitting down for most of the first half, and [my teammates were] just like ‘TJ just be ready,’” Bamba said. “I just wanted to contribute and do what I could do.”

Sophomore forward DJ Rodman went down with an ankle injury in the first half. He managed to hobble his way to the Cougar bench, but he was showing considerable signs of pain. He was moved to the medical tent and stayed there for the remainder of the half.

At halftime, Rodman finally left the tent with a WSU trainer. He limped his way out of the arena with a winter coat on, most likely to receive further medical attention.

WSU went into halftime with a 30-22 lead over Portland State, which was the first halftime lead for the Cougars all season. Head coach Kyle Smith said a first-half lead was a goal for the team going into the game.

“That was a mini goal for us, to have a lead at half – or at least tied,” Smith said.

Williams led the Cougars in scoring at the half once again with nine points. The team shot just over 40 percent from the field at the half, a new season high for WSU at halftime.

Despite multiple comeback attempts from the Vikings in the second half, WSU held on until the very end and managed to win by more than four points for the first time this season. Throughout the game, WSU never gave up a lead. They led for almost 95 percent of the game.

Portland State is arguably the most intense team the Cougars have faced this season. The Vikings had a very energetic bench presence after most plays and their full-court press defense forced WSU to turn the ball over 13 times.

“We just wanted to stay composed, make sure we didn’t allow them to rattle us,” Bamba said.

Smith said the team’s energy on the court and on the bench was expected but did not faze the Cougars much in their win.

“I played on a pressing team growing up and I think that is a big part of your mojo,” Smith said.

Although the Cougars won, the team was outrebounded by five boards and gave up 16 offensive rebounds total.

WSU’s next game is against the Montana State Bobcats on Friday at Beasley Coliseum. Fans will not be allowed to attend, but the game will air on the Pac-12 Network.