Flowers nets 22 as WSU upsets 1-seed SMU in Dallas
DALLAS - For the third time in program history Washington State (21-14) is on to the third round of the National Invitation Tournament as the Cougs did what no other team could do in 2021-22, upset the one-seeded Mustangs of SMU (24-9) on their home court of Moody Coliseum. From the opening tip until the final horn the Cougs led against the home Mustangs en route to a 75-63 victory Sunday in Dallas. The win snapped the nation's third-longest home winning streak as SMU entered the day having won 19-straight contests inside of the coliseum.
Leading the way for the Cougs was their fifth-year captain, Michael Flowers, who scored a team-best 22 points on 6-of-13 shooting including 3-of-8 from distance. The key to Flowers game came down to his performance at the line as he made a perfect 7-of-7 while the Cougs finished the day 23-of-26 from the charity stripe. Alongside of Flowers it was the big man Efe Abogidi who asserted himself into the game with 12 points, eight rebounds, and a game-best three blocks, two of which came in the second half.
Using their size and length to stymie the Mustangs at every level the Cougs ran out to a big lead in the first 20 minutes of play to cushion the eventual run that the Mustangs would inevitably make in the second half. Initially it was a slow burn for the Cougs in the first half as despite their height advantage WSU struggled to convert from inside allowing the Mustangs to hang around. However, while the offense started slowly the defense was on point from the start as WSU held SMU to just four points through the first eight minutes of play, forcing the Mustangs into contested shots and cleaning up the glass after one attempt.
The Cougs would create some distance between themselves and the Mustangs out of the second media time out using an 8-0 run, capped by five-straight including a three-pointer from Abogidi, to take a double-digit lead they would not relinquish the rest of the half. WSU extended its lead to 19 by the break when Flowers went on his own 8-0 run with just under four to play hitting two of his three from distance in the streak as the Cougs headed into the locker room with their largest lead since a 21-point advantage over Colorado back on Jan. 30.
While the first half was all Cougs the second half turned into a battle as the Mustangs came out firing behind their conference player of the year, Kendric Davis. With Davis leading the charge the Mustangs went on a 14-2 run to cut WSU's lead to just 7 at the second media, putting in doubt what was once thought to be over for the Cougs. During the run Davis dropped in 10 of his 24 second half points to claw back into the game. Even when the lead was cut to just four with 2:30 to play with Davis going on a personal 10-2 run, WSU did not fold as the Cougs looked to Flowers and Abogidi once again to quell the storm. A press breaking dunk by Abogidi and a back-breaking three by Flowers moments gave WSU breathing room from which they would close out the day from the line going a perfect 6-for-6 to secure the victory and a trip to the third round of the NIT.
The Cougs will take on 2-seed BYU in the third round of tournament with the winner earning a trip to Madison Square Garden. The game will be played in Provo, Utah either Tuesday or Wednesday depending on ESPN television selections.