WSU came out with a crackling energy on offense from the opening tip, something this season too long absent. But the Cougs also ran their screens and sets in a way rarely seen at Wazzu during the Bennett era -- Tony or Dick. What was shocking was the urgency, the Cougs were far from their usual deliberate selves at UCLA.
Indeed, Wazzu came out looking to shoot at first opportunity, and to create those opportunities -- and that meant early in the shot clock. Really? A Cougar team that plays at a fever pitch on defense, sure. But on offense, too?
All game long.
After falling behind in the second half, Washington State quickly -- and we do mean quickly -- built up an eight point lead at the 6:24 mark, 65-57. The final bucket on the 12-1 scoring run came from Aron Baynes on a beautiful wraparound feed along the baseline from DeAngelo Casto.
Later, Casto would seize a second chance offensive rebound, laying it in off glass. The Bruins made it interesting down the stretch, and so too did the refs who took a decidedly "no blood, no foul" approach late, a drastic departure from the game's first 20 minutes.
But Rochestie was money from both lines -- foul and three point. UCLA's desperation heave at the buzzer was blocked by Thompson and the Cougs were dancing in Pauley Pavilion, a venue where they had only tasted victory once before.
TWO KEY JUNCTURES late in the game, when UCLA looked ready to seize momentum and potentially overtake the Cougs, Rochestie and the Cougars seized it right back.
One came on an ice cold three by the senior point guard from well beyond the arc to put WSU up 70-63 with 3:55 to go. UCLA later had a point blank look that would have trimmed the margin to three but Thompson fought for the rebound, found Rochestie on a fast break -- and with 32 ticks on the 35 second shot clock and most everyone trailing behind him, Rochestie pulled up and drilled another trey.
IT WAS THOMPSON who was unconscious in the early going -- the Cougs made six of their first seven shots and Thompson overall hit his first five, scoring 13 points in the game's first 13:00.
And when Thompson drove in the lane and UCLA took away his path in the first half, he found Caleb Forrest who calmly knocked down his mid to long range jumper. Forrest was one of the unsung in the victory, hitting 6-of-8 from the field and contributing 12 points, every one of them critical.
And he was among the unsung because Rochestie filled up the hoop in a way he never has before.
UCLA focused their attention on stopping Thompson in the second half and they did, all 15 of the freshman's points came in the first half. But Rochestie in the second half went hotter than the sun.
The Cougars' senior point guard scored a career high 33 points that included 14 of Washington State's final 15. He was a deadly 5-for-7 from three point range.
The Cougs shot 68 percent in the first half but were still tied 42-42 at the break and it wasn't hard to see why -- UCLA was 14-of-18 from the line. Conversely, Washington State garnered only three trips to the stripe in the first half.
WHILE BAYNES HAS posted better statistical marks, you'd be hard pressed to find a better passing effort by the Aussie big man. Baynes had four assists to go along with his 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting. He added two blocks and six rebounds -- and he did all of it in 26 minutes much of which was spent in foul trouble.
Indeed, Washington State found themselves in such deep foul trouble that Tony Bennett went to a 1-2-2 defensive zone in the second half -- something almost never seen in Bennett ball -- trying to protect his big men from picking up any more calls. The Cougs were also forced to play much more tentatively on defense in the second half, trying to keep the whistles silent.
Alas, Baynes was whistled for his fifth foul with 2:50 remaining and the Cougs up by seven.
Casto, also in foul trouble early, had another strong performance in his true freshman season. At UCLA, Casto was a rebound grabbing, assist making shot blocker -- who also scored seven points.
Marcus Capers and Nikola Koprivica only scored two points between them, the Cougars run their offense to get others shots, but the duo played smart defense, each made key plays down in crunch time and they kept the Cougar offense in rhythm with their passing.
A startling 10 of Washington State's 17 free throw attempts came in the final 46 seconds of the game. Every point counted in this one, and the Cougs knocked down 14-of-17 from the foul line, led by Rochestie's prefect 10-for-10.
|COUGAR D CLOSES ON COLLISON.|