TO OUTSIDERS IT may have seemed a modest goal. But to a Cougar Nation suffering one of the longest hardwood droughts in school history, Washington State coach <b>Dick Bennett's</b> preseason goal of qualifying for the Pac-10 tournament may have seemed a bit, well, lofty.

But qualify they did, Saturday, with a 70-58 win over the California Golden Bears in front of 6,000 or so at the suddenly-awakened Friel Court.

"We did achieve the one tangible goal we set," Bennett said. "We are in the tournament; for this program, that's an important step."

The securing victory was a perfect ending to a regular season that saw the Cougs come oh-so-close on several occasions, including a buzzer-beating loss to then No. 1 Stanford on Thursday.

WSU enters the tourney as the No. 8 seed and will again face the Cardinal, the Pac-10's top seed, on Thursday, 12:20 pm, at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Senior guard Marcus Moore punctuated his final home game as a Coug with a strong performance, tallying 16 points, six assists, and seven rebounds. The Friel natives thanked him for his four years with a standing ovation as he left the floor in the game's waning moments.

"I was specifically happy that he (Moore) went out as he did," Bennett said.

WSU's two other seniors--Justin Bellegarde and Ezenwa Ukeagu--were among the starting Cougar five and performed admirably. Bellegarde contributed four points and five rebounds; Ukeagu was perfect from the field and totaled 11 points and five rebounds.

Three other Cougs--Jeff Varem, Shami Gill and Thomas Kelati--also had double-figure scoring days.

The Cougs close the regular season with a 13-15 mark--the most wins since the 1996-97 season. In additon, their seven conference victories are the most since the 1995-96 squad posted nine.

Better still, their season is still alive.

"I'm just happy we're going to be there," Bennett said. "You play until you lose—can't ask more than that."

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