Turning up the defensive screws in the second half, Aron Baynes and Ivory Clark led the renaissance. Clark keyed the opening run, turning a five point deficit into a six point cushion. The 6-foot-5 forward tossed down two rim rattling dunks, blocked two shots, grabbed a rebound and grabbed a steal in the first five minutes of the second period.
Baynes, the freshman Aussie, scored 13 second-half points and pulled down a career high 12 rebounds with 10 of them coming in the second half. Baynes appears to be coming into his own. A week ago in a narrow loss to Cal he paced the Cougars with 12 points and 10 rebounds. The Cougars kept the foot on the gas, outscoring the Huskies by 18 points over the final 20 minutes to cruise to victory.
"Aron Baynes' presence was the single biggest factor in the second half," Bennett said. "Baynes was our steady rebounder and I though Ivory gave us steady defense."
WASHINGTON STATE HAD lost six straight since beating the Huskies a month ago, falling just short on a number of occasions. The Cougs broke through Saturday using a balanced scoring attack in dispatching Washington, with five Cougars scoring in double-digits. WSU is now 10-9 overall and 3-7 in the Pac-10, while Washington fell to 16-5 and 5-5.
Guard Chris Matthews made his first career start Saturday, the freshman catching the eye of Bennett the past few weeks. Logging 27 minutes, Matthews scored 13 points including a pair of treys. The freshman out of Luther Christian Academy in Washington D.C., also contributed two rebounds, two assists and one steal. It is the eighth different starting lineup in eight games since Derrick Low broke his foot.
Josh Akognon led all Cougar scorers with 14 points, 11 of them coming in the first half that were crucial in keeping Washington State close. Six-foot-10 Robbie Cowgill added 10 points and 4 boards, as the Cougs went inside over the final 20 minutes. Kyle Weaver had a strong all around game, adding seven points, four assists, four rebounds, a block and a steal.
THERE WAS A stretch late in the first half, one that provided a microcosm of the six game slide that WSU entered Beasley with on Saturday. Nothing was working offensively against the UW. Worse, the Huskies went on a 17-2 run, threatening to blow open the game by halftime, scoring far too easily against what was no longer a smothering defense, the trademark of Dick Bennett teams.
But Washington State, trailing by 11, began to find their stride in the final minutes of the opening half, closing the gap to five as the buzzer sounded. Clark and crew came out firing in the second half and at the 15:00 minute mark with WSU up by six, Washington never got closer than three points.