Inside the visitors’ locker room at the Marriott Center Wednesday night, Washington State players sang the lyrics of Frank Sinatra’s famous anthem, “New York, New York.”

That’s where defensive-minded, No. 4-seeded WSU is going next after having its way with No. 2-seeded BYU in Provo, claiming a 77-58 victory and advancing to the NIT semifinals. 

“Just an outstanding effort by our guys in winning in this environment against a really well-coached, good team,” said Washington State coach Kyle Smith. “We played probably our best game of the year in our biggest game of the year. That’s exciting.”

In earning a trip to Madison Square Garden, WSU senior guard Michael Flowers bloomed in the second half, while BYU’s dreams of a trip to New York City wilted in front of a crowd of 11,148. 

“Certainly, a really disappointing way to end the season,” said BYU coach Mark Pope. “It was a disappointing night. Congratulations to Washington State.”

Flowers erupted for a game-high 27 points, including 15 in the second half. He also hit four 3-pointers. Going into the game, he was two 3s shy of the school record of 3-pointers made in a season, held by Klay Thompson — now of the Golden State Warriors. Flowers broke that mark with 10:56 remaining in the game and he finished with 100 on the year. 

WSU guard Tyrell Roberts (11 points, three 3-pointers) also hit some big shots for the visiting Cougars in the second half. 

“It was not our night guarding the perimeter in the second half. To guard a team like this, it was two-fold — we had a difficult time on the glass,” Pope said. “Rebounding the ball was really difficult. We gave up 13 offensive rebounds. We failed to be there on a catch with shooters … It was surprising because that’s not been us. In some ways, we just didn’t look like ourselves tonight. That happens. Unfortunately, that happened tonight … Credit to Washington State. Also, we didn’t quite perform up to the standard we have here in terms of guarding.”

In its first two games in the NIT, BYU scored at least 90 points in each. And against Northern Iowa last Saturday, it knocked down 16 3-pointers. 

But against Washington State’s size, length and depth, it was a much different story and a much different outcome.

“Their length slowed us down a little bit. We didn’t manage ball screen coverages great,” Pope said. “We were a little gun-shy offensively. I was surprised that we weren’t as aggressive as we traditionally have been. It wasn’t our best game, for sure.”

BYU made just 3 of 20 3-pointers and had 13 turnovers. As a team, the Cougars shot 41%.

“We just didn’t earn great shots for our teammates. That’s partly Washington State’s defense (which) is designed to limit ball movement. We weren’t forceful enough to fight through that to earn great shots for ourselves,” Pope said. “Whether it was distraction or defense or fatigue or uncertainty, whatever, it was hard for us. We’re actually a really good shooting team when we earn great shots for ourselves.”

3 keys to BYU’s loss against Washington State

WSU (22-14) is headed to the NIT semifinals at MSG next Tuesday and will face Texas A&M. This could be the last time the NIT will hold the semifinals at Madison Square Garden. 

“It means a lot. Especially for me. It’s my third school,” Flowers said of the impending trip to the Big Apple. “Obviously, it was always a dream of mine to play in March Madness. But the NIT is a great tournament. To be able to play in Madison Square Garden is incredible. We want to take full advantage of this, celebrate this moment. But we know we’re not finished. We’ll try to win two more games.”

Last Sunday, Washington State ended SMU’s 19-game homecourt winning streak. What is it about WSU’s ability to win in hostile environments? 

“We’ve been really good on the road all year. They’ve got a good makeup and they like each other. That always helps a lot,” Smith said. “They sing before, during and after. They stay loose on the road. We talk about it and emphasize being good on the road. It’s a sign of a good team. We haven’t been healthy all year and we’re kind of healthy now. That helps a lot.”

BYU had an 18-12 advantage to open the game before WSU went on a 7-0 run to take its first lead. BYU was up 22-19 before a game-changing 12-0 run by WSU, which featured eight points by Flowers. 

Dishon Jackson, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, came off the bench and scored 10 of his 14 points in the first half.

“The initial four minutes, I was very concerned because they came out with such a punch with (Fousseyni) Traore and (Caleb) Lohner. We were able to withstand that,” Smith said. “We got some good efforts from Dishon Jackson coming off the bench and Mike and Ty had a strong second half and salted away the game.”

Washington State outscored BYU 23-8 over the final nine minutes of the first half and led at halftime 35-26. 

“I missed a couple of shots early but I stayed confident and my teammates kept finding me,” Flowers said. “We found each other and we found a way to end the half strong.”

In the second half, BYU whittled the deficit to 42-39 before Roberts and Flowers powered a 26-9 run over a seven-minute stretch. 

Traore led BYU with 16 points, on 7 of 10 shooting, and eight rebounds. Lohner had nine points and 11 rebounds.

“They’ve got some good, young bigs. As good as you can find. We approached this as a Big 12 program. They’re headed there,” Smith said. “They’ve got size, they’ve got skill. Those young bigs are impressive.”

In their final games in a BYU uniform, Alex Barcello and Te’Jon Lucas finished with 12 and six points, respectively. In the final minutes, they left the floor to the roar of appreciation of the fans. 

“I’m incredibly grateful to Te’Jon and Alex for what they’ve done for this university and this basketball program for the last year, and the last three years,” Pope said. “We will miss those guys. They’re really special guys.”

BYU finished the season with a 24-11 record.