Comeback Kids: Shockers rally for come-from-behind victory over UNLV


Tyson Etienne drives toward the basket during the game against UNLV on Nov. 21 inside T-Mobile Arena.

Tyson Etienne was given a second chance. After going 1-3 at the free throw line late in Friday’s loss to Arizona, the sophomore nailed a pair of late free throws on Sunday, leading to a 74-73 victory over UNLV. 

The sophomore guard’s game-winning free throws sealed a comeback victory, after WSU trailed by as many as 11 points in the second half. 

“In life, if you hit something that you don’t do well or you mess up, you want to learn from your mistakes,” Etienne said. “I went back and watched film on how I shot the free throws. I looked at my balance on the two free throws that I missed. I stayed focused on my balance.

“It was myself in that position late, but I know if it was any of my teammates they were knocking it down. We were so close to beating Arizona and Arizona went on to win the championship, so we can’t let opportunities slip through the cracks.”

Etienne led a double-digit comeback in the second half for the second straight night, scoring 23 of his season-high 28 points in the final 20 minutes. The Englewood, New Jersey native had his most efficient scoring night of the season shooting 50% on three-pointers (6-12) and going 8-17 from the field.

“When I worked out by myself, I just focused on making sure I was on balance on all of my shots,” Etienne said. “I felt way more on balance today in all of my shots, whether it was from the three or in the mid-range or from the free throw line. And that comes with continuing to get back in a flow. That’s really what my focus was on.”

Freshman Kenny Pohto had not converted a three-pointer this season but he gave WSU a lift in the second half as Morris Udeze dealt with foul trouble. Pohto finished the night with a career-high 12 points, while going 3-7 from downtown. 

The 6’11 center played a crucial role with the Shockers trailing double digits, knocking down a pair of threes and a put-back dunk to spark an 8-2 run.

“Kenny came up huge,” Brown said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in him. He plays for us because he can defend, he’s a very intelligent player, high basketball IQ. He hadn’t made a three in a game but in every practice, he made four or five threes. He stepped up and made some big plays. He was huge for us tonight.”

The comeback on Sunday was WSU’s second in Vegas this weekend, after the Shockers rallied from a 15-point deficit against Arizona, forcing overtime on Friday. Brown said it speaks volumes about the team to never stop fighting, no matter the score.

“It’s the character in the locker room,” Brown said. “I got this job because of these guys. We lost our first two games to Oklahoma State and Missouri (last year) and these guys never pointed fingers. They always have my back and they just keep battling, they never let up.”

Up next, the Shockers will travel to Columbia, Missouri to take on the Missouri Tigers on Friday. Tip is scheduled for 8 p.m.

“We have a tough road ahead of us and I think this game helps give us confidence knowing we can play against a lot of these teams that we have coming up on our schedule,” Brown said.