Cougs ride sharp-shooting first half to victory

PULLMAN -- Under second-year head coach <b>Dick Bennett</b>, whose system preaches intensity on defense and patience on offense, high-scoring games have been few and far between for the Washington State men's basketball team. In last Friday's season opener, what started out looking like an uncharacteristic shootout turned into another low-scoring affair, but a Cougars pulled out a victory nonetheless.

WSU led Montana State 43-26 at halftime and looked well on their way to surpassing last year's points-per-game average of 57.9, a Pac-10 low. But a slow second half resulted in a 59-42 final score. Both teams scored 16 points in the second half.

Senior guard Thomas Kelati led the Cougars with 12 points, hitting a trio of three-pointers. Freshman forward Daven Harmeling came off the bench to score 10 points. Senior guard Isaiah Simmons, a surprise starter, led the team with eight rebounds, which becomes even more impressive considering he stands just 6-foot-2.

After a hot start, WSU shot just 21 percent from the field in the second half, missing 16 out of 17 shots at one point. But the Bobcats didn't do much better and couldn't gain ground.

Wednesday the Cougars host Georgia Southern, although with WSU students on Thanksgiving break, there probably won't be many fans in the stands. Georgia Southern is 1-2 after competing in a tournament in Alaska.

Neither last week's opener nor Wednesday's contest should offer a real look at the Cougars. That should come on Nov. 27, when WSU plays at Kansas State. The Wildcats are a Big 12 team, albeit not an elite one. Key for the Cougars will be how their freshmen – many of which play significant roles on the team – handle playing on the road and in another big school's arena.

* The Cougars women's team won its opener against Boise State last Friday, 61-48, behind Kate Benz's 23 points and 11 rebounds. In its next game, WSU lost to Nebraska, 78-61. Adriane Ferguson scored a career-high 26 points for the Cougars.

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