Cougars make it a six-pack

SEATTLE - The Washington State Cougars continue to make history. It's been 65 years since they had a six-game winning streak over Washington, but their 56-52 win over the Huskies Saturday night in front of a sold-out and raucous Bank of America Arena gave them that vaunted six-pack.

"All week we talked about that Washington State would play the same way whether they were up by 20, tied or down by 20," said Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar after the game. "We knew that they were a very mentally tough team, and I think for 35 minutes that we did a good job of playing very good basketball."

Washington State, entering the game at a perfect 12-0 on the season and riding a crest of national recognition unequaled in the program's history, looked to dominate the Huskies with their NCAA-leading defense, but they got all they could handle from Washington.

The jitters were evident early. The Cougars constantly double teamed Jon Brockman (13 points, 14 rebounds), while also smothering Ryan Appleby, who had standout defender Kyle Weaver (10 points, seven rebounds) in his face all evening.

"Kyle Weaver is one of, if not the best defender in the league," said Romar.

For the first 13 minutes of the game, neither team could establish any offensive rhythm. This was primarily due to the sensational defense played by both teams, but it didn't hurt that the referees swallowed their whistles. The game became a chess match of defensive wizardry, both teams keeping each other off-balance play after play with neither team gaining an advantage.

At the seven-minute mark, the Huskies found their legs. Keyed by the seven quick points of hot-handed senior Tim Morris (16 points, four rebounds) the Huskies surged ahead before Washington State was able to answer.

The half ended with the Huskies holding a narrow three-point advantage, 20-17.

Any questions regarding Washington's defense were quashed in bold fashion as they held the Cougars to a dismal 6-23 shooting performance from the field, including 0-8 from three. The half also saw the Cougars without a single assist.

"It was a very hard fought game, you saw that," Washington State Head Coach Tony Bennett said after the game. "My hat goes off to Washington and how hard they played. It is a little different this year on the defensive end for sure."

The Cougars rigged defense caused eight steals in the half, as Washington tallied nine turnovers, though they still managed to shoot 50 percent from the field.

Both teams tried to turn on the jets to open the second half. The Huskies were again paced by the sweet shooting of Morris, who dropped two quick buckets before the Cougars answered with jumpers of their own. This was Morris' seventh double-digit scoring game in a row.

With Washington State center Aron Baynes (16 points, four rebounds) saddled with three fouls and relegated to the bench, the Huskies turned their attention to attacking the basket. When Husky center Artem Wallace went to the bench for a breather, the Cougars did their own attacking, battling their way back to a 35-all tie before Appleby (6 points, 4 turnovers) hit his first three-pointer of the game at the 10-minute mark.

Appleby hit his second moments later, but it was quickly answered by Washington State forward Daven Harmeling who buried a three-pointer of his own despite a heavily taped broken thumb.

Washington State took the lead at the seven-minute mark on a Derrick Low lay in, but Husky guard Justin Dentmon responded by burying a three-pointer off an Appleby miss.

Despite Washington's attempts, the resilient visitors just wouldn't go away. Jumpers by Low and point guard Taylor Rochestie put Washingtion State up by five before a layin by Quincy Pondexter (8 points, 4 boards, 3 assists) and subsequent steal and free throw by Dentmon pulled the Huskies back within 2

With the Cougars holding possession, Kyle Weaver missed a pull-up jumper in the key to give the ball back to Washington with 45 seconds remaining. A foul on Baynes put Brockman on the line, where he hit the front end of the one and one, but missed the back end. Kyle Weaver was quickly fouled and missed the first of two and with the Dawgs down by two with 27 seconds to go, they went to work.

Washington went into their offense, quickly dumping the ball down low to Brockman who came up short on his spinning lay-in. Two Weaver free throws later the game was over by a final score of 56-52.

"We felt that Jon (Brockman) could get around Baynes," Romar said about the final play. "Jon had forced Baynes into a couple of fouls earlier when he got it and drove it, but Baynes did a good job of staying between Jon and the basket.

"I think that for the most part we played good basketball the entire night," Romar added. "But down the stretch, they were able to take the lead, Harmeling hit a couple big shots and those guys made big plays. Normally, 14 turnovers isn't enough to make the difference but in a game with fewer possessions, they were magnified tonight."

The Huskies continue to struggle in one key area – free throw shooting. Washington managed to sink just three of nine from the stripe tonight. "Our inability tonight to hit foul shots hurt us, and they (WSU) didn't miss very many," said Romar. "I'm convinced that if you shut everything down and make mention of it, you'll go from shooting 58 percent to 12 percent because you are thinking about it too much."

Washington has little time to contemplate what might have been, as they head south to face fifth-ranked UCLA and the Trojans of USC this next week.
Points: Morris 16, Brockman 14, Pondexter 8, Appleby 6, Dentmon 6, Wallace 2
Minutes: Brockman 39, Morris 31, Appleby 31, Wallace 29, Pondexter 26, Dentmon 25, Smith 8, Overton 7, Bryan-Amaning 4
Rebounds: Brockman 17, Morris 5, Pondexter 5, TEAM 4, Wallace 3, Smith 1, Overton 1
Assists: Pondexter 3, Wallace 2, Brockman 2, Appleby 2, Morris 1, Dentmon 1
Steals: Dentmon 2, Morris 1
Blocks: Morris 1 Top Stories