PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — KJ Robinson scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half, JT Gibson finished with 18 points, and Omaha beat Washington State 85-77 on Thursday night.
Robinson was 6-of-12 shooting, including two 3-pointers, and made 6 of 6 from the free-throw line. Ayo Akinwole added 14 points, Zach Thornhill scored 11 and Matt Pile grabbed 14 rebounds for the Mavericks.
Omaha trailed 48-35 at halftime and by as many as 15 points early in the second half before Robinson scored the final seven points in a 10-0 run that trimmed the deficit to 53-48 with 14 minutes to play. Robinson made a 3-pointer to cap a personal 7-0 spurt and give the Mavericks the lead for good at 67-65 about eight minutes later.
"When we played bigger schools like Colorado State and Dayton earlier this season, they would make a run at us and we could never weather the storm but today we did that," said Omaha Head Coach Derrin Hansen. "We showed that when someone makes a run at us we can now do the right thing and make a run back at them."
Omaha (3-3) was more physical on both ends of the floor, winning the rebounding battle 41-37, and outscoring the Cougars in the paint 24-18. The Omaha bench outscored the Washington State bench 29-3.
Washington State (2-2) was held to just 29 points on 7-of-35 (20%) shooting in the second half behind a stifling defensive effort by the Mavericks. CJ Elleby tied his season high of 27 points and also had nine rebounds for the Cougars. Isaac Bonton added 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
"I think we lost focus," said Washington State Head Coach Kyle Smith. "They have good guards and they were relentless about attacking and we were terrible all night about defensive transitions. As a coach you can really gravitate toward to the negative. Our shot selection was poor. Not having Jaylen out there hurt us."
Washington State: The Cougars were overwhelmed defensively in the second half.
Omaha: The Mavericks' pulled off a surprising win over Washington State behind a solid second half performance.
Omaha gets it first road win of the season.
Washington State's injured (ankle) starting point guard Jaylen Shead will travel with the team Friday to the Cayman Islands Classic, suggesting he might return for action during the three-game tournament in the Caribbean.
Omaha: The Mavericks play host to the Southern Jaguars on Monday.
Washington State: The Cougars play Nebraska in the first round of the Cayman Islands Classic on Monday.