TONY BENNETT AND Washington State players talk about the Cougars' second half explosion over Arizona…
SURGING COUGS BLOW BY ARIZONA
Think Taylor Rochestie wasn't feeling it? The last of three straight dunks by Aron Baynes, with the victory by Washington State (15-13, 7-9) long since assured, was a Rochestie dribble drive, blowing by one defender and drawing another to him -- and then he deftly put it in front of the rim for Baynes on a platter.
Baynes' two handed slam nearly blew the roof off of Friel.
"We didn't want to be a one hit wonder, we wanted to back up that (UCLA) win," said Rochestie on the post game radio show.
Four Cougars scored in double figures -- Rochestie has 17 while Klay Thompson hit for 16. Caleb Forrest had 15 to go along with his six rebounds and DeAngelo Casto scored 11 and dished off five, count 'em five, assists.
The crimson surge began with around two minutes left in the first half. Until that point, things were all going Arizona's way.
Arizona (18-10, 8-7) came in having won seven of their last eight. They doubled down on Aron Baynes early, necessitating kickout passes from the big man but the Cougs could simply not find the range from outside in the first half. Arizona meanwhile seemed early on to hit just about every three point shot they took.
Arizona put on the full court press in the first half and forced a few turnovers but the primary obstacle for Washington State -- they just weren't knocking them down when they had open looks. And they had a lot of them.
Still, the Cougs clawed their way back to within 20-16 at the 8:16 mark, primarily on the backs of Rochestie and Forrest.
Marcus Capers on one sequence late in the half seemed to spark the Cougs -- the true freshman turned the ball over, then raced back to blocked Arizona's layup attempt and keyed a fast break bucket by Caleb Forrest, who was fouled on the play. The Cougs pulled to within six after trailing by as many as 11.
A pair of free throws by Forrest and a rainbow long distance three by Klay Thompson, who until that moment had not found the range, drew the Cougars to within a possession at the break -- 29-26. Forrest was the Cougs' leading scorer at halftime with nine points (7-7 FT).
Wazzu was a woeful 28.6 percent from the floor (8-26) over the first 20 minutes but Thompson picked up where he left off, nailing a three to start the second half and knotting the game at 29-29 courtesy of a prescient cross court assist from Rochestie. The senior point guard nailed a three of his own at the 16:11 mark to put Wazzu up 36-32 -- and the Cougs were just getting started.
Washington State spread out their offense in the second half, blunting the Arizona press and allowing them to feed the ball into the post. That opened up the floodgates, and Washington State started knocking just about everything down. The Cougars shot 68 percent from the field in the second half (17-25).
Baynes was whistled for his third foul less than five minutes in but the Cougars' defense, highlighted by Capers on Nic Wise, continued to shut down Arizona while DeAngelo Casto began to heat up on the inside. Wise had 15 first half points but Capers stuck to him like glue in the second and Wise could manage only four second half points.
The Wildcats had only three second half points in the first six minutes-plus as Wazzu took their biggest lead of the night, 40-32. Thompson's three gave the Cougars their first double digit lead of the game, 45-35 with 12 minutes left in the game and Casto's bucket pushed it to 47-35 with 10 minutes left.
"He did a heck of a job. And he was so active defensively," said Tony Bennett of Casto on the post game radio show.
When Rochestie drilled a trey with 6:03 left in the game, the Cougars were 13-of-18 shooting in the second half and held a commanding 14-point lead.
From the 2:00 mark of the first half until 12:30 remained in the second, Washington State outscored Arizona 20-4.
Although Arizona focused their game plan on Baynes, he just missed another double-double, finishing with eight points and nine rebounds.
Washington State held Arizona to zero fast break points and only two points off the bench. The Cougs meanwhile got 28 bench points and even logged four points off their fast break.
Washington State led at the half in second chance points (7-0) and rebounds (20-13).
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