BRING ON THE BRUINS

AND NOW COMES the hard part. The Cougs play their second game in as many days and it's against well rested UCLA, in Los Angeles. But before looking too far ahead, oh wouldn't you have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the WSU locker room at halftime of the win over Oregon. Because Tony Bennett was hopping mad.

Washington State blew out Oregon 62-40 in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament -- and it wasn't that close. The Cougars have now won four of their last five games.

At the break, WSU was shooting 66 percent from the floor and had held Oregon to 33 percent. The Cougs led by 12 and Aron Baynes was tearing up the paint to the tune of 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting.

So why was Tony Bennett looking like he was about to blow his stack?

Ignoring the boilerplate question from the sideline reporter, Bennett expressed significant displeasure with how the Cougars ended the half, turning the ball over and allowing a three by Oregon sharpshooter Tajuan Porter to trim the Cougar lead to a dozen.

Bennett then stalked off towards the dressing room-- presumably to gather his players together and peel some locker room paint.

Whatever Bennett said, WSU responded, outscoring Oregon 6-1 to open the second half, two of the buckets emphatic slams by Baynes. The lead was 40-23 a little more than three minutes in and the Ducks never seriously threatened again.

The Cougs now face UCLA, a team they beat 82-81 on Feb. 21 at Pauley Pavilion. Since then, the Bruins have won four straight.

But if Bennett wants some bulletin board material, he's got it. All four LA Times writers who cover the Bruins are predicting a UCLA victory over Washington State tonight at the Staples Center.

THE WORRY coming into the first round matchup with Oregon was that they were playing their best basketball of the season -- some thought this shaped up to be the perfect trap game for Washington State.

Hardly. The Cougars dominated early and often inside with Baynes -- seven minutes in the senior already had eight points and the Cougs had their first double digit lead.

When Baynes came out for a rest with 14:35 remaining in the game, he had already scored 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting. Baynes returned later to gather a few more rebounds, finishing with eight, but didn't attempt another shot.

You know UCLA won't be anything close to how easy a win this one was -- DeAngelo Casto stormed straight down the lane unimpeded for a one handed slam to put the Cougars up 16-6 at the 12:54 mark of the first half.

The Ducks extended their defense to the length of court in an effort to speed things up and make the Cougs play their tempo but for the most part, Washington State stayed at their own pace.

The Cougs used Rochestie and Marcus Capers on Porter, and the Oregon guard had the toughest time scoring on Rochestie. The Cougs led 34-22 at halftime but credit Porter -- his 11 points kept the Ducks within shouting distance before WSU put the game out of reach.

After Oregon briefly closed to within six points in the first half, the Cougs proceeded to hold the Ducks scoreless for nearly five minutes. By the time UO ended the drought, the Cougs led 32-19 and were looking for more.

They didn't come from beyond the arc, though. The Cougars for the first time in more than three years (Feb. 9, 2006 against UCLA) did not make a shot from beyond the arc, attempting a season-low six 3-pointers.

With the Cougs bumping up against a 20-point lead early in the second half, Bennett substituted liberally, looking to keep his starters fresh for the date with UCLA and also got several some rest in the first half.

NOTABLE NOTES:
Caleb Forrest again had a solid shooting night, going 6-of-8 from the field and scoring 14 points. He also had five boards, a block, steal and assist. Casto, fast becoming a consistent offensive threat to go along with an already impressive defensive game, was 4-for-4 from the field, scoring 10 points in just 17 minutes.

Capers had five rebounds in 21 minutes and did not commit a turnover.

The Cougars ran their winning streak over the Ducks to six straight and knocked UO out of the Pac-10 tourney for the second straight season.

The Cougs face No. 2 seeded UCLA at 8:30 pm. The game is available in HD on FSN.

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