THREEPEAT! Cougars down Dawgs, eye USC

WASHINGTON STATE'S magical season, fueled by Taylor Rochestie's clutch production, reached near-historic heights late Thursday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. For the third time this season -- and fifth straight in the series -- the No. 11-ranked Cougars defeated Washington. The 74-64 win, WSU's first in the Pac-10 tourney since 1989, puts them at 25-6 and within one W of the school record.

They won't have to wait long for the chance to tie the 1941 WSU squad (the NCAA runners-up that season) atop the crimson record book.

The Cougars advance to a semi-final showdown tonight at 8:30 with USC, which beat Stanford in overtime just prior to the Cougar-Husky tip off. Cal, which shocked UCLA in overtime, will square off with Oregon in the other semi-final contest. The championship game is Saturday.

And Sunday is selection day for the NCAA tournament. The Cougars, widely thought to be in line for no less than a fifth seed, may have sealed themselves a third seed with the win over Washington (19-13).

The Cougars and Trojans are no strangers. They fought a titanic, double-overtime battle six days ago in Pullman, won by WSU 88-86, with Rochestie setting the pace with 21 points. Earlier in the year, in Los Angeles, the Cougs pulled out a 55-52 nailbiter over USC.


THURSDAY NIGHT'S game with the Dawgs started 50 minutes late, but WSU didn't skip a beat, jumping to a quick 9-2 lead on the strength of Derrick Low's hot hand. But the Huskies stormed back and took a 36-32 advantage into intermission.

The Cougars came out smokin' in the second half and twice held a seven-point lead before the Huskies went to a zone defense and came back to tie it at 54 and again at 56. The Cougar lead fluctuated between two and five points for the next three-plus minutes before Rochestie drained a three-ball to put the Cougs up 68-62.

Rochestie, the sophomore transfer from Tulane, was nothing less than heroic in his 33 minutes of action. He scored 20 points -- nine in the final three minutes -- on 6 of 9 shooting from the field and 7 of 7 accuracy from the free throw line. He also had two steals, three assists and four rebounds.

He followed his critical three-point shot with a gorgeous runner off the glass down the middle of the key on the very next possession to up the Cougar lead to 70-64.


He wasn't the only Cougar who came up big. On offense, Low scored 15, Robbie Cowgill 14 and Kyle Weaver 13. On defense, Cowgill, Aron Baynes and Ivory Clark were tenacious against the Dawgs' Twin Towers, Jon Brockman and Spencer Hawes. Brockman had 13 points and eight rebounds, but was neutralized over the final 10 minutes, while Hawes was shut down the entire night and finished with six points and four rebounds.

The Cougars shot 52 percent from the field to the Huskies' 45 percent. WSU held a 14-8 edge in turnovers and UW had a 30-21 advantage in rebounds.



* WSU scored on its final 10 possessions after the game was tied at 56.

* With five straight victories over Washington dating to last season, the Cougars tied their series-best streak, set in 1941-42.

* The Cougs held the UW duo of Brockman and Hawes to a combined 19 points on Thursday, after allowing the pair 37 in the Cougar win over the Huskies last month.

* Pardon the pun: Weaver said after the game, "We fought like dogs ... If we can keep playing like this, we'll be all right."

* Cougar head coach Tony Bennett told reporters what he's told them after each of the Cougs' last three games of the regular season: "This is great preparation for the NCAA tournament."

* The Cougars won for the 13th time away from Pullman this season -- the most since 13 wins away from Pullman in 1924-25.

* WSU improved to 9-1 when trailing at half.

* The Cougars were 13-for-16 at the foul line in the final 5:43.

* Tonight's opponent, USC, rallied from an 11-point deficit Thursday against Stanford to force an overtime period and won 83-79 behind Nick Young's 26 points.

Weaver and the Cougs put the defensive clamps on the Dawgs over the final 20 minutes, limiting the UW to 28 second half points on 39 percent shooting and taking the bounce out of the Huskies' step for the fifth straight time.

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