Crimson perfection from FT line no accident

IT'S ONLY 15 feet from beginning to end, and when a fouled player is shooting a free throw from that distance no rival is defending against it. But, despite the uncontested, wide-open nature of shots from the so-called charity stripe, there is nothing charitable about them. Players miss them; outcomes of games often are decided by free throws.

Which is why the Washington State Cougars have at least one thing in their favor going into Pac-10 Conference home games against UCLA on Thursday (6 p.m., FSN-HD) and USC on Saturday (3 p.m., FSN).

As the result of making all 28 of their free-throw attempts against Oregon, the Cougars rank No. 1 in the Pac-10 in three-throw shooting percentage at 76.4 (188 of 246). Arizona State is No. 2 at 73.5 (264 of 359).

Cougar point guard Taylor Rochestie, who went 16 for 16 from the free-throw line while scoring a career-high 30 points against Oregon, is No.2 in the Pac-10 with his season percentage of 90. 9 (50 of 58). UCLA's Darren Collison is No. 1 at 95.2 (60 of 63).

OBVIOUSLY, THE COUGARS' free-throw shooting success is no accident. Tony Bennett, during his teleconference Tuesday, described a free-throw emphasis in practices involving a variety of drills with the object being: "You shoot a lot of them."

Sometimes, he said, free throws will be shot at different times throughout a practice, when the players are tired. Sometimes practice attempts serve as punishment for an indiscretion.

"We'll just try to do different things to get their minds focused on their strokes … their forms," Bennett said. "It's not always how many you make out of 10 (attempts). Sometimes it's how many swishes you make or how many in a row you have made. Or you've got to make seven in a row before you leave the gym.

"They have to get their ‘reps' and they have to shoot with a comfortable form."

GETTING 28 ATTEMPTS against Oregon was a good thing, Bennett said.

"Those are the points we talk about all the time. Free throws. Offensive rebounds. Transition baskets. Out of bounds plays. Those things really help you offensively."

Rochestie is closing in on WSU's career record for free-throw percentage. He has made 158 of 191, 82.7 percent. The school record is 82.9 (121 of 146) set by Jan-Michael Thomas, who played 50 games during the 1999 and 2000 seasons.

MEANWHILE, BENNETT INDICATED the Cougars' starting lineup will continue to be a work in progress.

Rochestie, senior center Aron Baynes and freshman forward Klay Thompson are set. But involved in the other two spots, according to Bennett, are five players – Daven Harmeling, Nikola Koprivica, Caleb Forrest, Marcus Capers and DeAngelo Casto.

"They're all going to play," Bennett said. "We just look at how we match up, who has played well in the last game, who has practiced well, and go from there."

Capers made his first start against Oregon and went scoreless in 31 minutes.

"I thought Marcus did a nice job defensively," Bennett said. "He took a little pressure off Taylor (Rochestie). He brought us some athleticism and ball-handling. He did a solid job for the number of minutes he played."

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