Washington State guard Noah Williams pestered coach Kyle Smith from the sideline.
The sophomore from Seattle was up to a career-high 32 points, and the Cougs were way in front of Cal with a little less than seven minutes to play in a Pac-12 men’s basketball game Thursday at Beasley Coliseum.
But Williams wanted a crack at 43 points. He sought to tie or surpass the career-best of his father, 1980s Wazzu great Guy Williams.
“I was surprised he didn’t badger me harder,” Smith said, laughing. “I just said, ‘Nah.’ I thought about it for a second.”
Williams already had done his part and then some in WSU’s 82-51 thrashing of the Golden Bears.
And if he continues to perform like he did against Cal, it might only be a matter of time before he hits Guy’s mark.
“I wanted to beat it,” said Noah Williams, who’d bounced back from a string of rough offensive outings — including in a last-second loss to rival Washington — and credited the turnaround to father-son film-study sessions.
“Just seeing where I could get my shots, what I needed to do to be more aggressive and get easy buckets.”
Williams boosted the Cougars (13-10, 6-10 Pac-12) from all angles, shooting 12-for-20 and racking up 24 of his 32 points in a brilliant first half. He added nine rebounds and seven assists, assuming point-guard responsibilities with senior Isaac Bonton and sophomore Ryan Rapp sidelined with injuries.
“Point guard is actually my natural position, growing up. So, I fit well,” he said.
Williams was particularly dialed-in during a momentous stretch late in the first half. He netted consecutive 3-pointers, knocked down a long 2, then set up a transition finish to center Dishon Jackson with a steal and an assist.
For the cherry, Williams soared downcourt off another takeaway, putting in a double-clutch scoop layup through a foul. Before he sunk his free throw, Williams looked toward the WSU sideline and channeled Michael Jordan.
“I was feeling hot, so I just gave the little Jordan shrug,” he said.
“I came in with a chip on my shoulder, for sure. The game just flowed my way. It was a tough loss against U-Dub. That one really hurt, really hit close to home. I just had to bounce back.”
The Cougars, as a whole, played their most complete game of the year despite being short-handed. They closed out on the bulk of Cal attempts and used a sharpshooting, 14-1 run to sprint ahead by double digits midway through the first. The lead grew steadily from there.
WSU shot a season-best 51.7 percent, outrebounded Cal (8-16, 3-14) by 13, doled out a season-best 22 assists and coughed the ball up only seven times, a season-low.
“We’ve been harping on (turnovers),” Smith said. “We did a lot of push-ups and sit-ups. I guess the coaching staff has to do something now. Under 12 (turnovers) should be five sets for the coaching staff.”
It was the Cougs’ biggest conference win in 28 years, and the largest-ever margin of victory against Cal.
Wazzu also went 12-for-23 from distance after shooting 9-for-46 combined in back-to-back losses to USC and UW.
“We had a purpose tonight, and we played really well,” Smith said. “Noah started it.
“I didn’t know Noah had that in him, to be honest. He’s a great competitor, he’s fearless. He was just in attack-mode all night.”
Freshman forward Andrej Jakimovski, filling in at guard, contributed 11 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. Freshman post Efe Abogidi logged 10 points and eight rebounds, and sophomore DJ Rodman chipped in 11 points.
Deep balls from Jakimovski and Rodman sparked a 15-0 run that swelled WSU’s edge to 33 points with 7:41 on the clock. Williams then took his seat.
Star Cal guard Matt Bradley totaled 16 points, but was mostly contained by Williams. Forward Andre Kelly had 10 as the Bears shot 36 percent from the floor.
Colton Clark may be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @ClarkTrib or by phone at (208) 848-2260.