Cougars deliver the knockout

LOS ANGELES - It's not an easy thing to do, but the Washington State Cougars defeated Washington 74-64 Thursday night in the Pac-10 tournament quarterfinals, pulling off a rare season three-peat over the Huskies. They can thank Taylor Rochestie for making a meal out of the Huskies' defense when it mattered, sending them packing toward a possible spot in the NIT Tournament.

"It's one of the hardest things that you can do, but that's the beauty of basketball," Washington State guard Kyle Weaver said of the three-peat. "On any night you can win one, or you can give one. And tonight we were the ones to get that win."

With the loss - the fifth straight for UW against their cross-state rivals - the Huskies' slim hopes for advancement toward the NCAA Tournament were officially put to bed. The Cougars - whose last Pac-10 Tournament win was nearly 18 years to the day - will face USC Friday night, who defeated Stanford in overtime 83-79.

"Washington State played a solid game," Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said. "They kind of just played their pace. They played like a veteran team and never got rattled. Taylor Rochestie had a heck of a game and we couldn't keep him in front of us and he made big shots."

Rochestie, a sophomore transfer from Tulane, and the obvious choice for 2007 Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year, went bananas on UW in the final four minutes, scoring nine points, causing UW guard Justin Dentmon to foul out, and doing just about anything else WSU Head Coach Tony Bennett asked of him. Overall, he finished with 20 points for the game.

"So many times in games it comes down to making plays, big plays, and Taylor (Rochestie) certainly did that," Bennett said after the game.

And just like what Washington State is known for, they forced Washington into doing things they didn't want to do - namely fouling and turning the ball over. With the game tied at 56, Rochestie was fouled by Dentmon on a breakaway with 5:43 left in the game, the Cougars found themselves in the bonus. And they drew fouls seemingly on every possession from there on out, eventually shooting 16 free throws in that stretch, and making 13 of them.

"We got the ball inside quite a bit and tried draw fouls of our own, but we weren't able to come up with any," Romar said.

The Cougars (25-6, 14-5) were also paced by the points of 15 points of Derrick Low, 12 of which game in the first half, and 14 points from Robbie Cowgill. Weaver chipped in 13 for WSU. The 25 wins for the Cougars is the most for the program in over three-quarters of a decade.

Washington (18-13, 9-11) was led by the 15 points of frosh forward Quincy Pondexter, and the 13 points and eight rebounds of Jon Brockman. Sophomore Artem Wallace added 10.

Frosh center Spencer Hawes struggled mightily to handle what Washington State did defensively, scoring two points in the first half and six points overall in 22 minutes of play. His second bucket didn't come until 2:40 to go in regulation.

The Cougars, who had been more than happy to play at UW's desired possession-by-possession pace, sped things up in the second half, and it caught UW off-guard. They started taking their offensive game straight to the bucket, drawing contact and making layins. The Huskies, without points from Hawes, had to improvise and get their points from other places. On the defensive end, the Huskies went zone at the 13:17 mark, and that helped slow things down for a while. In fact, a cutting Adrian Oliver tied the game at 54 with 7:54 left in the game.

But that's when Rochestie, who had been content to try some 3-pointers earlier in the half, took it to Dentmon and frosh guard Oliver, hitting improbable runners, free-throws galore, and a magic bomb from right in front of the Washington State bench with just under a minute left in the game to put the Cougars up six and out of the Huskies' grasp.

Despite Hawes only playing nine minutes in the first half - due mostly to foul trouble and ineffectiveness offensively, the Huskies used a strong defensive effort and scoring from the start to take a 36-30 lead going into intermission. Appleby tossed in three 3-point shots in the last 3:30, his only shots of the half. They also got strong contributions from Pondexter and Wallace, who had 10 and eight points, respectively.

And even though UW came out with the requisite energy they lacked in the opening 10 minutes of their Wednesday game against Arizona State, Washington State still pulled ahead by the first television timeout, 9-2. The shots weren't falling, but the Huskies pounded the offensive glass, getting putbacks by Pondexter and Brockman. A Hawes baby hook from the left baseline tied things up at 13 with 10:12 left in the first half.

WSU's Ivory Clark was being guarded by Brockman, and the UW sophomore was only going to guard him to the free-throw line, so he promptly put down two back-to-back jumpers to tie things back up at 21 with 5:08 to go. That's when Pondexter scored four quick points to prompt a Cougar timeout at the 4:20 mark. From that point on, it was all Appleby, as he was able to free himself from some screens and get open looks from deep. The three treys gave Appleby 84 for the season, a new UW season record for 3-point shots.
Statistics:
Points: Pondexter 15, Brockman 13, Wallace 10, Appleby 9, Dentmon 7, Hawes 6, Oliver 4
Rebounds: Brockman 8, Pondexter 6, Hawes 5, Wallace 4, Dentmon 3, Oliver 3, TEAM 2
Assists: Dentmon 3, Appleby 3, Wallace 2, Pondexter 1, Brockman 1, Oliver 1
Steals: Dentmon 2
Blocks: Oliver 1

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