Cougs open Tony Bennett era w/ a win over UAB

WITH MAC HOPSON deftly running the point, Derrick Low filled up the nylon from the 2-guard spot -- to the tune of 28 points -- as Washington State cruised to a 71-60 win over Alabama-Birmingham in the opening game of the John Thompson Foundation Classic in Milwaukee on Friday. The Cougars raced to a double-digit lead against the Blazers and led by as many as 24 points in the second half.

The Cougars are 1-0, giving head coach Tony Bennett his first victory as a head coach -- and it happened in his home state of Wisconsin, where he was prep and college standout.
The Cougs committed only three turnovers in the first half and rookie point man Mac Hopson finished the night with 9 assists and three TOs. For the game, the Cougs logged 21 assists against 15 TOs. Hopson also had three steals on the night.

"I thought Mac Hopson in his debut did a nice job," said Bennett. "He pushes it."

The move to the shooting guard for Derrick Low, after his first two seasons in Pullman running the point, certainly would appear to agree with him. Low was 10-16 from the field, including 6-of-9 from beyond the arc.

Washington State shot 50 percent from both the field (28-56) and three-point land (9-18) while holding UAB to just 35 percent in each category. Note: Official game stats had yet to be released at press time.

Highlighting one of the differences from the previous seasons under Dick Bennett, Tony's father, the Cougs will look to get out and run more under the younger Bennett. Washington State scored more fast break points (6) than did UAB (5) on Friday. But that doesn't mean WSU's trademark defense is going away.

"I thought, most importantly, they didn't get many transition baskets on us," said Bennett.

Ivory Clark added 18 points, grabbed seven boards, and added two assists and two blocks to help pace the Cougars. Daven Harmeling hit on 4-of-6 shooting, including three treys.

UAB WAS SELECTED to finish third in Conference USA this season according to a vote by the league's head coaches. The Blazers, coached by former Indiana coach Mike Davis, returned six players and three starters from last season's 24-7 team that made their third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, and finished second in C-USA a year ago.

Washington State played quite well in long stretches against the Blazers, said Bennett, but also had some lapses in the second half, allowing UAB to whittle a 20-point lead down to 11 with a little over five minutes to go.

"We just did not execute there," said Bennett of the latter stages. "But that's a pretty talented team we played. I don't know how many wins they'll get -- but there's some good individual talent there."

The Cougs will need their rest before resuming play tomorrow. Clark, Hopson, Kyle Weaver (8 pts, 7 rebs, 4 assts) and Low played 31, 35, 34 and 38 minutes, respectively.

"We played some guys with heavy minutes, hopefully they'll come back fresh," said Bennett.

Washington State plays UW-Milwaukee Saturday, with the tip scheduled for 5:30 p.m. PT.

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