Steele Venters’ 3-pointer with 16 seconds remaining proved to be the game-winner as Eastern Washington scored the final nine points en route to an 81-74 first-round NIT win over Washington State on Tuesday in Pullman, Wash.
Venters closed his game-high 27-point performance with a flourish, scoring seven points over the final 2:23, including the difference-making 3-pointer in the closing moments.
Eastern Washington (23-10), the regular-season Big Sky Conference champion, pulled ahead 77-74 on Venters’ bucket, but needed a stop against a Washington State side that was red-hot from beyond the arc most of the night.
The Cougars (17-17) connected on 14 of their 30 3-point attempts, with DJ Rodman, Jabe Mullins, TJ Bamba and Andrej Jakimovksi each making three.
But Washington State’s final two attempts by Rodman, preceding Venters’ successful triple, and Jakimovski with eight seconds remaining, both fell short.
The Cougars made one last furious effort, intentionally fouling to send Venters to the free-throw line. Despite no other Eagle being lined up at the key, Venters grabbed his own rebound on the missed front end of a one-and-one, forcing another Washington State foul and effectively closing out the win.
The rebound was the third of Venters’ night to go along with three assists, a steal and a block. Venters’ rejection of Bamba on a driving layup attempt came with less than five minutes to go during a furious Eastern Washington rally.
Despite leading by nine points at halftime, the Eagles fell behind by nine at the 10:35 mark. Eastern Washington erased the deficit to retake the lead, but neither team led by more than two points for the ensuing nearly eight minutes until Venters’ game-winning 3-pointer.
Tyreese Davis and Angelo Allegri each scored 12 points for the Eagles.
Rodman led Washington State with 23 points. Bamba and Mullins each finished with 15, and Jakimovski scored 11. Rodman led all players with eight rebounds.
–Field Level Media