Cougs' loss to Bears not all bad

PULLMAN -- On the surface, it was just another night for the Washington State Cougars. Another night with a loss. Another night with poor shooting. Another night with poor execution at crunch time. That said, Thursday's 57-50 loss to California had a different feel than, say, last Saturday's humbling defeat at the hands of Washington.

"I saw improvement, I guess," coach Tony Bennett said. "It's a little bit of a consolation.

"But," he added, "I want to win."

Chances are the Cougars will beat a lot of teams with performances similar to Thursday's. The Bears, however, are one of the nation's best shooting teams, and they proved it by becoming the first WSU opponent to shoot 50 percent from the field this season.

CAL'S JEROME RANDLE CUTS THROUGH KOPRIVICA, BAYNES, ROCHESTIE.

"I'm impressed with them," Bennett said. "They have a nice ball club, they really do.

"They can shoot the ball. I was impressed with them on tape. They have some special playmakers."

The Cougars had a "special playmaker" of their own. Taylor Rochestie, whose sweet jumper has been AWOL much of the season, helped rally the Cougars in the second half with some impressive shooting from the perimeter.

Rochestie finished with a season-high 19 points, and he had just one turnover in 38 minutes. His defense, however, may have been more impressive than his offense.

Rochestie held Jerome Randle, who was averaging 19.5 points and shooting a Division I-leading 56 percent on 3-pointers, to eight points and 0-for-5 shooting from 3 land.

"He guarded a prolific scorer with great quickness," Bennett said. "He gave us everything he could."

WSU freshman guard Klay Thompson also was impressed with Rochestie. "He really did a great job today, keeping Randle out of the lane and making contested shots."

Randle did make some key plays down the stretch, including a lob pass that Patrick Christopher slammed home with 1:31 to go after the Cougars had pulled within four. Christopher led everyone with 22 points.

"It's probably good this game wasn't nationally televised," Bennett joked, "because that would have been on every highlight."

Nikola Koprivica, who went back into the starting lineup in place of slumping Daven Harmeling, agreed with Bennett that he was to blame for allowing Christopher to dunk.

"It was an amazing dunk," Koprivica said, "but I should have been in better position."

The Cougars continue to struggle to score and shoot for a high percentage -- they hit just 38 percent Thursday -- but Bennett said, "I thought we got really great shots for the most part. I liked it.

"Aron (center Aron Baynes) had a tough time. They were very physical. He had a tough time finishing."

The Cougars trailed just 28-26 after the first half, when Thompson scored 12 of his 14 points. Baynes, however, scored just eight points in the game on 2-for-9 shooting, and WSU's reserves shot just six times and scored no points in a combined 44 minutes.

Bennett expressed disappointment in his bench's lack of production (44 collective minutes of playing time, zero points six shots, four rebounds). That lack of output is especially notable, he said, because, "We've got to be close to perfect defensively if we're not going to shoot better than we are."

The Cougars did match Cal's 5-for-14 effort from 3-point range. That is noteworthy in that Cal came into the game leading the nation in 3-point shooting at 50.5 percent. The Division I record is 50.8, set by Indiana in 1987.

Still, the Cougars found a way to lose at the end.

"We've got to execute much better down the stretch," Koprivica said.

"It's not enough just being close with 3 minutes left," Rochestie said. "We know how tough it is to get a win in the Pac-10."

The task doesn't figure to be any easier come Saturday. Stanford (12-2, 1-2) comes to town to face a WSU squad that has lost four straight home games for the first time in five years. The Card lost Thursday in Seattle to Washington 84-83.

NOTABLE NOTES: WSU, 8-6 overall, is 0-2 in the Pac-10 for the first time since an 0-14 start in league play in 2002-03. … Harmeling went 0 for 4 from the field. He's 0 for 5 with no points in the past three games. … WSU has scored more than 60 points only once in the past nine games. The Cougars average a league-worst 58.5 points per game. ... The Cougars tied their season low of six turnovers and held Cal to a season low in points. Mike Montgomery's coaching staff at Stanford includes Travis DeCuire, who was highly successful as a head coach at Sammamish High School in Bellevue and Green River Community College in Auburn. Montgomery's other assistants are John Jay, fired as Oregon State's head coach last year, and Gregg Gottlieb, brother of ESPN college basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb. Montgomery's son, former Loyola Marymount point guard John Montgomery, is the director of basketball operations …. Mercer Island High graduate Marlon Stewart was hired as Cal's video coordinator after five years as a student manager at Washington State.


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