VICTORY IN THE DESERT: An in and out affair

JUST WHEN YOU thought it might be time to toss the radio out the window if Bud Namek uttered the phrase "in and out, heartbreak" one more time, Klay Thompson goes wild from outside and Aron Baynes goes big inside. The Cougs, struggling so hard of late to get the ball to drop, finally found two hot hands Thursday. The result was a stunner over James Harden and his No. 14 Sun Devils of ASU.

The Cougars began the game making just three of their first ten shots. When ASU jumped to an eight-point lead with 12 minutes left in the first half, this game had play-by-play man Namek's signature phrase for tough-luck shooting written all over it.

Adding to the woe, Harden was getting more favors from the refs than anyone this side of Michael Jordan. Plus, the Devils' nice brand of zone defense -- a defense that typically can't be bested without consistent outside shooting – seemed tailored to devour the points-challenged Cougs.

So much for trend lines.

Talk about shockers. Suddenly the Cougs are back into contention for the post-season. And the Pac-10 title race, with Arizona dumping Washington, is really up for grabs.

The Cougars won it 65-55 with Mr. Inside – Aron Baynes – and Mr. Outside – Klay Thompson – leading the way. Together, they accounted for 50 points, including a mind-numbing 39 of the team's first 41.

Thompson hit a blistering 8-of-10 shots from the beyond the arc – including each of his first eight – and scored 28 points. His long-range accuracy the best-ever for a WSU freshman and his 28 points was the third-most in history for a Cougar freshman. He also had seven rebounds and an assist. Meanwhile, on the inside, the 6-11 Baynes hit 7-of-14 shots from the field and a perfect 8-of-8 from the line to score 22 points. He also pulled down nine rebounds and blocked a shot. This marked WSU's fifth-straight win over ASU and third-straight in Tempe. The Cougs are now 12-8 overall and 4-4 in Pac-10 play, while the Devils drop to 16-4 and 5-3.

WSU, trailing 30-27 at intermission, turned up the heat at both ends of the court in the second half. They outscored the Devils 38-25 and clamped down on defense. ASU shot 50 percent from the field – their season average – in the first half and a woeful 29 percent in the second.

ASU shot 19-of-51 from the field – 37 percent – for the game. "I like our defense … our defense hung tough," said head coach Tony Bennett.

And the offense? "You've gotta make some shots down the stretch as we did tonight as opposed to Saturday (when the Cougs dropped a heartbreaker to USC)," said Bennett.

For ASU, Harden had 26 points, but was foiled for much of the stretch run by Cougar freshman DeAngelo Casto, who blocked two shots, scored on a putback and pulled down five rebounds in 21 minutes of action.

The Cougs now head down the road to Tucson for a 10 am Pacific Time tip off Saturday against resurgent Arizona. The game will be televised on CBS. "We'll talk more about them later," Bennett said right after the victory in Tempe. "I'm just thankful for the win tonight."

* Baynes and Thompson became the first Cougar duo to score 20-plus points each in one game since Taylor Rochestie and Derrick Low at Oregon State last February.
* The Cougars got their first win over a top-25 opponent since defeating No. 15 Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament last March 22.
* Freshman Mike Harthun saw his first action since playing two minutes against Washington (Jan. 5). This was just the third time all season he's appeared in the first half. He took one shot -- an air ball -- from three-point range.
* WSU is 55 of last 57 from the free throw line in last four games.

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