KYLE WEAVER: DANCING ON TO THE SWEET 16
IT ISN'T A SURPRISE, not really, that the Cougars have advanced into the Sweet 16. But surely, few could have predicted the manner in which Washington State again dominated the opponent in their second tourney win. On Saturday, Wazzu simply smothered the high-tempo Irish offense with a frenzied defensive pitch, holding the Golden Domers to 19 first half points and a season low 41 at game's end.
"Kyle is so versatile, his ability to slash, drop passes, make plays offensively. But that ability to rebound is really I think the thing that has jumped up in the last few weeks of the season. You know, he's made a difference. He's really playing sound basketball. It's real good to see," said Tony Bennett of his star wing.
Derrick Low was on his game defensively like never before, said Bennett. "I was so impressed with Derrick, that's the best I've seen him defensively, active with his hands, digging out loose balls," said Bennett. "He had a tough job because that kid is a great offensive rebounder, Tory Jackson...offensively he hit that dagger with a three. He moves. He's a complete guard. I was so pleased with his performance tonight. He was aggressive."
Taylor Rochestie has played two of his best defensive games in his college career in this year's tourney. "Taylor, boy, he really didn't allow -- we said Kyle (McAlarney) is like (Ryan) Appleby from the Huskies. Know how quick he is. He has such a quick release, he'll shoot it from deep...Beat screens, don't give him clean looks, like he did to Jenkins the night before, mind you, because he was pretty good against him. He really worked. I think he was a little fatigued offensively, didn't have a typical game. He did have sevens assists, two turnovers. He took care of the ball," said Bennett.
Robbie Cowgill and Aron Baynes allowed scant points from inside the paint on Saturday against the Irish -- remarkable given how well the Cougars also defended Notre Dame from outside.
Before the game, Tony Bennett showed the players a photo his wife, Laurel, gave him. The picture was almost exactly one year old -- it was of the scoreboard, pre-game, in what would eventually become last year's second-round, heartbreaking double overtime loss to Vanderbilt. He challenged the players with the tableau, telling them they were in the exact same spot as last season, and then asked of them to think of how each, individually and as a team, could play better and show improvement from that loss. After the Cougars' 20-point drilling over the Irish, Bennett took out the photo again in front of the players and ripped it up, telling them; "You did it."
Aron Baynes played only 23 minutes total after picking up a couple early fouls but in that time, he pulled down 11 rebounds while chipping in six points.
Kyle Weaver drove right through the heart of the Notre Dame defense and on more than one occasion on Saturday, including this gliding effort.
Taylor Rochestie, Derrick Low and Aron Baynes celebrate their second NCAA Tournament victory.
Taylor Rochestie and the Cougar perimeter players gave Notre Dame little room to operate from the outside --- all night long.
Kyle Weaver deftly splits a pair of Notre Dame defenders before dishing it off.
Daven Harmeling fights for position in Washington State's 61-41 victory over Notre Dame in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Kyle Weaver with one of his three steals on the night.
Robbie Cowgill, who hit 6 of 7 for 12 points, and Aron Baynes, whom Harangody and Kurz (31) found to be an impenetrable wall, fight for position. The Cougars had 37 boards while the Irish, well known for their rebounding prowess, had 38.
Kyle Weaver and crew held the Irish to 3-of-17 from beyond the arc, and 13-of-53 shooting overall.
Just like in the opening round game, Rochestie turned in another lockdown defensive effort. Along with 7 assists, he pilfered 2 steals against Notre Dame.
Cougar fans had reason to cheer long, loud and early on in Denver on Saturday as WSU advance to the Sweet 16. Washington State takes on the winner of the North Carolina - Arkansas game on Sunday. The Cougs will play in Charlotte on Thursday, with a starting time yet to be determined.