BAM! Cougars rebound to upset No. 15 Baylor

PERHAPS THIS IS where doubt ends. For those who still questioned whether Washington State is good enough to be ranked in the Top 25, that should have been settled with a 77-71 win Thursday against No. 15 Baylor in the semifinals of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu. The Cougars play either Butler or Florida State for the championship at 6:30 p.m. Saturday (TV: ESPN 2).

And say this for the Cougs, they are compelling to watch.

"We did persevere," said WSU coach Ken Bone in a radio interview after his team had to come-from-behind after squandering a 20-point second half lead. "It's really hard to be up by that many points and lose the lead. Last year we might have rolled over. It's not an easy task our guys accomplished."

Even after defeating Gonzaga and losing by five points against then-No. 5 Kansas State earlier this month, some around college basketball had reservations on the Cougars (10-1).

Fox Sports Net color commentator Marques Johnson expressed his reservations about anointing WSU an NCAA-caliber team, noting the Cougars had faded badly the year before in Pac-10 play, losing nine of their final 11 regular-season games after posting a 10-2 nonconference record.

But that was last season, when the Cougs were anemic on the defensive end much of the year. This Cougar defense has been hellacious in their zone, and they were again, save for about a five minute stretch, on Thursday.

Questions on WSU's toughness should no longer be a concern, not after the Cougs responded to the Bears' resolve-sapping run. WSU led by 16 points when Thompson was whistled for his fourth foul. Baylor G LaceDarius Dunn, who scored a game-high 29 points, finished a 17-0 Baylor run with a pair of free throws and later hit a jumper to give Baylor its first advantage, 62-61, since early in the first half.

"We played so well early and they just kind of deflated us on both ends," Bone said. "We made some silly fouls and that kind of helped them gain some confidence."

WSU seemed shell shocked. Game over?

Not on your life. Junior wing Klay Thompson hit a deep 3-pointer to regain the advantage, 66-64, with about 4 minutes, 20 seconds remaining. The Bears were not ready to capitulate, but WSU was intent on taking back momentum.

Dunn later hit a 3-pointer and Thompson, who scored 20 points, responded on the ensuing possession with 1:08 left to give WSU a 71-67 lead. Thompson then swished a pair of free throws on the Cougars' next series to effectively finish Baylor (8-2).

"I knew that it was going to go in," said Moore, referring to Thompson's 3-pointer. "I practice with these guys all the time."

BUT IT WAS not just Thompson. Against a team that was ranked second nationally in defensive efficiency by statistical analyst Ken Pomeroy, WSU shot 57.1 percent from the field.

In addition to Thompson, guard Faisal Aden (13), center DeAngelo Casto (12), point guard Reggie Moore (12) and forward Brock Motum (12) each scored in double figures.

"A lot of our guys stood out today and played good basketball," Bone said.

The Cougars needed it as they again were dominated in the rebounding statistic -- the very long Baylor team ripped off 32 second-chance points.

But WSU negated some of that by once again employing what has become the most defining aspect of this season for the Cougs -- defensive field goal percentage. Wazzu limited the Bears' shooting to 36.7 percent. Dunn was only 7 of 22 from the field and converted just 3 of 15 3-pointers.

The end result was the Cougars defeating a team that Pomeroy ranked as the eighth-best in the country. His website has only one Pac-10 team, Washington (No. 5), higher than Baylor.

"Hopefully," Moore paused, "it kind of puts us on the map."

Take out the words "hopefully" and "kind of", and Moore might be onto something.

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