HOOPS: Sweet November for 7-0 Cougs

THE CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC -- and long suffering -- Cougar Hoops fans know the toughest part of the season is yet to come but with each passing win, optimism is growing. Washington State cruised to their seventh win in as many tries with a 62-50 win over Portland Wednesday in a game that wasn't that close. The Cougs concluded their best November ever with the unblemished 7-0 mark.

Washington State led by as many as 20 points as the Cougar frontcourt duo of Ivory Clark and Daven Harmeling combined for 24 points.

The 6-7 Harmeling notched a career high 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting including a pair of makes from behind the arc. Clark (6-5) scored his dozen on 6-of-10 shooting, grabbing six boards and swatting away four shots on the defensive end.

Harmeling's 12 points were a career high for the sophomore while Clark's four blocked shots were a career best and he tied another career mark with three steals. WSU held Portland to 31 percent shooting and forced 22 turnovers.

Washington State lost the battle on the boards, however, with the Pilots holding a 35-28 edge. It's something that continues to concern first year head coach Tony Bennett.

"We got out rebounded again," said Bennett. "I wanted to get (Aron) Baynes more time but after the incident, he needed to learn he wasn't going to get back on the floor after that...I tell our kids I evaluate you whether we're up by 20 or not, when we're in practice, every time you step on the floor."

The incident Bennett referred to was a technical foul where Baynes apparently was a bit too demonstrative towards a Portland player after scoring a bucket.

Bennett, who already holds the most successful first year start by a Cougar Men's Hoops coach, is the first head man in the Pac-10 to start 7-0 his first year since Marv Harshman opened 7-0 with Washington in 1971-72.

Nikola Koprivica saw his first action of the year, the 6-7 freshman showing his range with a 2-for-2 night from three-point land. "Nick did a nice job in his first action," said Bennett. "We got to see a lot of faces."

Robbie Cowgill scored 8 points but again ran into early foul trouble, playing 19 minutes all told. The Cougar center finished with four fouls as WSU looked to get their bench plenty of minutes in the second half.

Derrick Low also had 8 points, his first game not in double figures this season. Low ran the point more in this game than he had all season, with Mac Hopson coming off the bench. Hopson has 3 steals in his 18 minutes while Low logged a team high 32 minutes. Kyle Weaver had 7 points in 20 minutes of work.

The Cougs had seven blocks on the night.

The Pilots' 22 turnovers were six more than WSU. Portland had 15 turnovers by halftime.

Washington State goes to Salt Lake City to tangle with Utah Saturday. The tip-off is at 6 p.m.

Washington State will play host to No. 21 Gonzaga next Tuesday. Few tickets remain for the tilt with the Zags at Beasley in Pullman, scheduled for a 7 p.m. tip. First things first though, said Bennett, and that's Utah. "Tough place to play, and we'll be tested with their big bodies on the boards...I'm looking forward to challenging our team and seeing where we're at," he said.

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