BAYNES: 16 POINTS AND PLENTY OF DEFENSE
A TAUT DEFENSIVE BATTLE and cold shooting crimson squad in the first half could have meant trouble for the No. 4 Cougs on Saturday. But as they've done all year, Washington State owned the second half, claiming their sixth win in a row over the UW by a 56-52 measure. And if you were already enamored with Aron Baynes' play, wait 'till you hear what he did down the stretch against the Huskies.
Some guys are clutch, and Baynes is one of them. With Washington State up by a deuce and time winding down, Baynes told head man Tony Bennett the Cougs didn't need to double team star UW forward Jon Brockman the rest of the way, that he'd solo defend Washington's leading scorer. The strategy freed up four other Cougs to batten down the hatches over the rest of the hardwood.
And with Baynes in crunch time going mano-a-mano with Brockman, the Husky stalwart was held without a bucket.
"Aron said during the timeout we didn't need to double (Brockman) the last few possessions. And he handled him (down the stretch)," Bennett said on the postgame radio show.
Brockman's final shot from the floor was an airball with Baynes in his hip pocket. It was also the Huskies' last, best chance. Weaver tracked down the rebound, was fouled with 15 seconds remaining and canned a pair of free throws to finish the scoring. Washington State hit 12 of 14 from the line on the night.
Robbie Cowgill also played solid defense on Brockman -- the Cougar forward's three blocks were all against Brockman. Brockman, an excellent player in his own right, did have 14 points and 17 rebounds against the Cougs -- but Wazzu also held him to 6-18 shooting on the night. Baynes led the Cougs with 16 points. His last three came on a thunderous dunk where he was fouled and hit the free throw.
FOR FANS OF DEFENSE, they got a treat on Saturday, and from both teams. It was also one of the more physical Pac-10 battles in recent memory, with bodies flying early, often and throughout the night.
Washington played solid defense, particularly in the first half, as Washington State shot a chilly 26 percent. True, the Cougars missed some open shots, but they also faced a much improved Husky D. And it was stellar defensive play by the men in crimson that resulted in just a three point deficit at halftime.
How good was the defense in the first half? The score was 20-17 at halftime. Cowgill did not attempt a shot the first 20 minutes, and the Cougs were 0-8 from 3-point range. WSU was led by Baynes' nine points pts at halftime.
BENNETT and DAVEN HARMELING
Kyle Weaver played particularly stellar defense on Ryan Appleby Saturday, holding the explosive shooting guard to six points on 2-of-8 shooting. Appleby came in averaging 13 ppg -- and had scored 18 or more in three of the Huskies' last six. Weaver finished with 13 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block.
Daven Harmeling also contributed in a big way. The forward was a surprise participant, having fractured his thumb in practice only two weeks ago. He provided Washington State 21 valuable minutes and went 2-for-3 on three-point shots.
"Our guys just battled, and it was so good that Daven could give us a lift...those two threes were huge...That shows the kind of warrior he is - he is playing with a fractured thumb and he is a tough kid," said Bennett.
F Caleb Forrest, battling a sore ankle that kept him out of practice all week, gutted out six minutes and nailed his only attempt from the field.
"Caleb came in, and he stepped up," Bennett said.
WASHINGTON STATE led 8-6 early but Washington slowly began to shake off their own scoring doldrums, taking a seven point lead with just under five minutes left in the opening stanza. It was the Huskies largest lead of the game. The Cougs' next lead came at 7:44 of the second half on Derrick Low's layup, courtesy of a Taylor Rochestie steal and fast break.
Rochestie was battling the flu, taking intravenous fluids earlier in the day but the point guard had three steals against Washington -- and only two turnovers -- while chipping in four points on 2-of-5 shooting. The Cougs logged 10 steals on the night against just seven turnovers all told. Meanwhile, the Wazzu D forced 14 Husky turnovers, turning the miscues into 13 points on the other end.
Low was 0-4 from downtown before draining a trey to put WSU up 51-48 with 4:25 to play. From that point on, the Cougs never relinquished the lead nor were tied.
ROCHESTIE BROKE OFF a lethal crossover move on Morris, Washington's best defender, and hit an off-hand runner for a five point lead, their largest of the night, with 3:05 remaining. Washington State capped the 8-0 run with the Rochestie's bucket. The game was primarily about free throws from then on out.
In perhaps the key stat of the night, WSU went 12-14 from the line while Washington hit on only 5-13.
At 53-51, Cowgill tipped an errant Husky shot to Baynes for a key rebound. Washington State was outrebounded 32-23 and the Cougs pulled down a scant three on the offensive glass.
With time running down, what looked to be a horrendous foul call on Baynes, (replays showed the contact was a result of Brockman clearly pushing off), allowed the Huskies to pull to within a point on Brockman's free throw with 27 seconds left. The foul was Baynes' fourth. Weaver then hit one of two from the charity stripe, setting up Baynes' defensive lockdown on Brockman's final shot.
After Weaver's ensuing pair of free throws, Appleby, after three stumbling steps without a dribble, tossed up a desperation airball and Cowgill dribbled out the final ticks.
The road doesn't get any easier for the Cougs. Washington State next faces two away games against the L.A. schools -- No. 22 USC on Thursday night at 8 p.m. followed by an early tilt against No. 5 UCLA on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Both games will be televised by FSN.
Only one player on the Huskies roster, Joel Smith, has ever beaten the Cougs while wearing a UW uniform. Appleby, Brockman, Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Justin Dentmon, Darnell Gant, Justin Holiday, Morris, Venoy Overton, Quincy Pondexter, Joel Smith, Artem Wallace and Joe Wolfinger are a collective o-fer. Although a senior, Appleby's first year playing for the UW was the 2005-06 season. Morris got a win against the Cougs but while playing for Stanford in '05. The transfer is playing his first season with the UW.
Washington State had six blocks -- three by Cowgill, two by Baynes and one by Weaver.
Morris tied Baynes with 16 points and hit a pair from behind the arc -- but the Cougs held him scoreless over the final 14 minutes.
Washington State shot 42.6 percent overall, Washington hit on 43.8. The Cougs shot at a 58 percent clip in the second half.
The 13-game winning streak is the longest in the modern era for the Cougs and third longest in WSU history. The 1914-15 team holds the record, starting 17-0 that season.
WSU finally received an official ruling from the NCAA on Fabian Boeke. The center is ineligible for the year and loses one year of eligibility but will be reinstated next season. Boeke will have four-to-play-three three beginning in the fall of 2008. He remains eligible for athletics aid and to practice. Members of Boeke's club team in Germany --- not including Boeke --- received stipends the NCAA determined were above actual and necessary expenses and the Ehingen team was deemed a professional organization by the NCAA.
KYLE WEAVER, ROBBIE COWGILL AND DERRICK LOW HAVE BEATEN THE HUSKIES SIX STRAIGHT AFTER FRIDAY NIGHT's ROAD VICTORY