HOW SWEET (16) IT IS!!! .........with PHOTOS

IN THE LEADUP to Washington State's game against Notre Dame, dozens of commentators compared Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody to Washington forward Jon Brockman. And the two big men do have at least one thing in common: no matter how hard they try, they can't beat Washington State.

The 61-41 Washington State win that put them in the Sweet 16 – likely against top-seed North Carolina – was a career-worst loss for Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, who was hired in July 2000. The Cougs were the first team to hold a Brey-led team to less than 48 points, and to a record-low 24.7 field goal percentage.

This is a sweetness Coug fans have been waiting decades for. Thursday's game will be the Washington State's first Sweet 16 appearance since 1941.

"This is quite a day for the Cougar Nation," Mike Heideman, WSU Director of Player Development and Operations, told the Cougar Radio Broadcast Team. "We just didn't let them run, and we had everybody where we wanted them to be."

Stopping Harangody was not the key to a Cougar win – but they did. The player who averaged 24.4 points going into the game had only 10 points, including six in the first half. He got his 19th double-double, but had to work for it, being double-teamed every time he touched the ball.

The Cougars are now 25-8 overall, with their only loss this month to Stanford in the Pac-10 Tournament semi-finals. To get there, the Cougs beat Oregon – a team whose players likely watched the Washington State win during the first week of their unwelcome offseason.

In Notre Dame's seven losses, the common thread running through each Irish defeat was an opponent who took away the perimeter. Correction, make that eight losses – the Cougs did took away the premier, too.

Notre Dame, which finished 25-8, was seeking its first trip to the regional finals since 2003.

Though the Fighting Irish were strong on the offensive boards in the first half, Washington State dictated the tempo.

"The nice thing is the kids really believed in the picture that Dick (Bennett) painted them," Heideman said. "And then Tony just took it to the next step."

On ESPN the night before the game, Bobby Knight bragged how he predicted the Pac-10 teams would sink in the tournament, noting losses by USC, Arizona and Oregon.

Good thing he said that before the Cougar tipoff.

Washington State shot 46 percent in the first half – more than 20 percentage points better than the fifth-seeded Irish, who only hit 7 of 28 shots.

The Cougs started to break away Saturday by holding Notre Dame to only four points during a 9 1/2 minute stretch in the first half. The Washington State lead increased to 19-11.

Derrick Low, who committed to Washington State without having ever seen the campus, had 11 points in the first half. That's only five less than what the senior had in the epic, double-overtime win against Washington. Low finished with a game-high 18.

Kyle Weaver added 15 points and nine rebounds for the Cougs, who may also face Arkansas in an East Regional semifinal Thursday in Charlotte.

The only other time the Cougars won twice in the NCAA tournament was in 1941, when they advanced to the national championship, losing to Wisconsin 39-34.

"Kyle Weaver had one of the best games of his career," Heideman said. "He just came and he dominated a lot of the game."


ROBBIE COWGILL GOES PAST LUKE HARANGODY


TAYLOR ROCHESTIE WORKS THE BALL IN THE FIRST HALF


ROBBIE COWGILL REACHES FOR A REBOUND


LATE GAME EXCITEMENT


ROBBIE COWGILL HUGS TONY BENNETT


IRISH EYES ARE NOT SMILING


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