Cougs survive Devil of a scare for win 19

WASHINGTON STATE trudged off in the end, as if in a daze. Arizona State's side collapsed onto the floor. The No. 17-ranked Cougs, converting only 4 of 20 second half field goal attempts, survived in the desert Saturday evening, edging last place ASU 48-47. Tony Bennett summed it up well: "It's not pretty, but it's a win ... we'll take it." More than anything, it moves the Cougs' record to 19-4.

WSU is tied for second in the Pac-10 with USC, which edged Oregon earlier today.

After leading by as many as 16 in the first half, courtesy of 63.2 percent shooting from the field, WSU went in the deep freeze in the second half. It was so bad that they didn't score a point for a stretch of more than 11 minutes, allowing the Devils to climb back from a 36-24 halftime deficit to tie it at 44 with 2:28 left on the clock. ASU had a chance to win at the buzzer but Christian Polk's shot rimmed out.

There would be no celebratory fist pumps for the victor when it was over. Not after a prolonged offensive drought nearly cost Washington State its first-ever season sweep over the two Arizona schools.

Arizona State, down by four in the waning moments, connected on a desperation heave from about as far away as Peoria with 1.9 seconds remaining. The Cougars' subsequent in-bounds play was botched when Derrick Low couldn't corral the Kyle Weaver entry pass, although it appeared from slow-motion replays that he was bumped by one of the two ASU defenders.

The Sun Devils then got a great look but Polk, who nailed the 3-point bomb seconds earlier, rattled one off the back of the rim and the Cougs had held on.

It didn't look like it was going to be a nail biter. Derrick Low and Daven Harmeling each got hot early. Ivory Clark lost the opening tip, a rare occasion indeed this season, and ASU doubled up the Cougs 10-5 in the game's opening minutes. But Low and Harmeling each heated up from downtown, the Cougs scored 11 straight points as part of a 19-4 Cougars' run to go up by double digits. Harmeling finished with 16, Low had 10 and Weaver added 8 points to pace the Cougars.

After the game's first 10 minutes, Harmeling and Low already had 10 points and 8, respectively, and the Cougs led 22-14. Washington State was 8-of-9 shooting during that span, connecting on four baskets from 3-point-range. The Cougs led 36-24 at half, shooting 63 percent from the floor and 55 percent from 3-point range. And Harmeling scored on a four point play to open the second and it appeared the rout was on. But then things suddenly turned.

As accurate as they were from outside early on, basketball traditionalists were undoubtedly pleased to see the Cougars guard against taking too many long distance shots at ASU by going inside -- Baynes pushed the Washington State advantage to 10 at 28-18 with his second bucket. But the Cougar sharpshooters went ice cold as the game wore on. Wazzu's one bugaboo this season has been rebounding, and their inability to clean the glass on both ends against ASU not only allowed the Devils to stay in it, it nearly won the game for the hard luck ASU squad.

The Sun Devils knotted the score at 44-44 with WSU's offense in the deep freeze against the Devils' zone D.

Robbie Cowgill, sitting with foul trouble, came back on the floor just in time and snapped the crimson scoring drought with a runner to give the Cougs the lead again. Low followed with two free throws that allowed WSU just enough breathing room as it turned out to walk out of the desert with the first Cougar season sweep over the Arizona schools since 1981-82.

In the end, the Cougars (19-4, 8-3), won a Pac-10 game on the road, climbed up in the league rankings and are now but one game in the loss column behind leader UCLA. And they received a stark wake up call in the process --- something that for the rest of the regular season and perhaps into March, may turn out to be a blessing.

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