Klay Thompson scored 25 points to lead Washington State over Long Beach State 85-74 Wednesday night in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.
Long Beach State trailed 36-18 at halftime, but began the second on a 24-9 run that got them within five points with 13 minutes to play.
"First half defense was very, very good," Washington State coach Ken Bone said. "They did get some open looks, they just didn't put the ball in the basket. We were very good in the first 20."
The 49ers hung close, but with six minutes to go, WSU scored seven points in 46 seconds, five by Faisal Aden, and took a 71-55 lead with 5:12 to go.
"We started the game with five defensive stops and only had two points," Long Beach State coach Dan Monson said. "We just couldn't get anything going offensively. Then it became eerily familiar from our last game.
"And then panic set in."
Casper Ware, who led the 49ers with 25 points, hit three 3s in the final five minutes, but the Cougars took care of the ball and milked the clock.
"It felt good to get that first win out of the way," Thompson said. "We had some lapses, that's going to happen. We knew they were going to make a run and we did a good job being patient and not getting frustrated."
The Cougars will host Oklahoma State on Monday night.
"This first win is huge," Bone said." I think now we will have time to focus on Oklahoma State, like they will us. I think our guys will be in tune, and think 'Hey, two more wins and we get to go to New York City, play in Madison Square Garden,' which is something every basketball player dreams of."