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National Invitation Tournament Second Round Recap - Washington State 74, Oklahoma State 64

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On the campus of Washington State University, defeat is expected. The term “Couging It” is a regular part of sports parlance in the Pacific Northwest.

For one March, the defeatism surrounding an athletic program might recede into the background and give way to the vibe of victory.

The Washington State Cougars defeated the Oklahoma State Cowboys in second round National Invitational Tournament competition from Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, Washington, on Monday evening. Though he struggled from the field, WSU‘s Klay Thompson was the glue that held Wazzu together for much of the evening while the Cougars’ defense held Oklahoma State in check.

The Cowboys came into the contest playing some of their best basketball of the season. Coach Travis Ford’s team from the Big 12 came within a whisker of defeating mighty Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals. Then, the OSU crew smacked down a very good Harvard team (one that had an argument for inclusion in the 2011 NCAA Tournament field) in the first round of the NIT last week in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

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The Washington State defense held OSU’s long-bombing guard, Keiton Page, to just 3-of-13 shooting, including a miserable 2-of-11 showing beyond the arc. In a very methodical way, Washington State was able to stretch its lead and hold it during the last part of the second half. The constant parade of defensive stops allowed coach Ken Bone’s team to win its second home-court game in the postseason, earning a third home date due to the fact that Boston College, the top seed in this particular NIT subregional, was unable to join Wazzu in the NIT quarterfinals.

Oklahoma State’s inability to play defense without fouling cost it dearly. Washington State went 22-for-26 from the free throw line and was repeatedly able to use the aptly-named charity stripe to buck itself up whenever things got dicey in the second half on Monday. The lone offensive contributor for the Cowboys was Matt Pilgrim, who shot 8-of-13 from the field and finished with a team-high 17 points; he found it hard to keep up with Washington State’s scoring pace, especially since the Cougars were able to get so many attempts at the foul line.

Washington State extended its lead to as many 14 midway through the second half and was able to maintain a double-digit lead for most of the contest; there was never any drama about the endgame stages of this tussle, which was likely decided by location and the fact that the Pokes from the Big 12 had to travel to one of the far-flung corners of America’s contiguous 48 states. Oklahoma State finished the season at 20-14.

Washington State will now host Northwestern in an NIT quarterfinal on Wednesday night (11 p.m. Eastern time in Pullman), with the winner moving on to play in the semifinals at Madison Square Garden next week in New York.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer
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