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March 8, 2008

No More Ties

In a spooky precursor of the upcoming game, Tony Bennett - the head coach of the 22nd-ranked Washington State University Cougar men's hoop team, came out in a suit and tie - and not his customary open collar game attire. Two overtime periods - and a lot of hand-wringing from his father and former Cougar head coach, Dick Bennett, in the seats behind him - later, Wazzu was finally able to dispose of the pesky Washington Huskies with a harrowing 76-73 win on Senior Day at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman. Fittingly, senior guard Kyle Weaver led four Cougars in double digits, with 20 points as WSU clinched third place in the Pac-10 at 11-7 and finished the regular season at 23-7 overall.


In honor of the Cougars' five seniors - Weaver, Derrick Low, Robbie Cowgill, Chris Henry [a redshirt junior in eligibility who is playing his last season due to nagging injuries and was therefore being honored as a senior] and Jeremy Cross - Bennett started an all-senior lineup for the first time this season. The Huskies, however, came storming out of the gate and immediately ruined the gesture by taking a quick 7-2 lead over the senior squad. Juniors Aron Baynes and Taylor Rochestie were subbed in after a few minutes and the Cougars took control with a 9-0 run to reclaim the lead at 11-7. The spunky Huskies played nip and tuck with the Cougars for much of the first half and even came back and took their largest lead of the game at 24-18. But a 12-2 Wazzu run, sparked by treys from Weaver and Rochestie along with a couple of buckets from junior Caleb Forrest, put the Cougars ahead, 30-26, at the half.

With their trademark second half opening surge, Wazzu jumped out to a six-point lead, but were never able to sustain a lead larger than that. The Huskies eventually caught the Cougars midway through the half, but after an alley-oop pass from Rochestie resulted in a Cowgill dunk, it appeared WSU was going to put Washington away for good. The Cougars once again built a six-point lead to 48-42, but once again, the Huskies fought back to take the lead at 52-51 with 3:45 remaining in regulation play. Washington carved out a 58-54 lead but Weaver hit two free throws and Cowgill was fouled as he hit a lay-in on an assist from Rochestie to tie it up with 14 seconds left. Cowgill missed the clinching free throw and in the ensuing possession, the Huskies Justin Dentmon turned the ball over to Weaver who dribbled down the court and missed a shot as time expired.

After Husky reserve Joe Wolfinger made a three-pointer - for his only points of the night - to open up the scoring in overtime, Rochestie scored the next six of the Cougars' nine points on two treys. Cowgill hit a rebound lay-up off Rochestie's three-point attempt with five seconds left that sent the game into double-overtime all tied up at 67-all.

In double overtime, with two Huskies - Wolfinger and Quincy Pondexter fouled out - the Cougars jumped out to a six point lead as "Big Daddy" Baynes took advantage of the absence of Husky big men with four points and withstood a desperation three-pointer from Ryan Appleby to secure the 76-73 victory.

Joining Weaver in double figures were Low and Rochestie with 16 points apiece and Cowgill with 10. Baynes and Cowgill shared top team rebounding honors with eight boards each. The win is the seventh in a row for the Cougars over the Huskies - a new school record in the all-time series.




The Cougars will be the #3 seed and will play #6 seed Oregon in the Pac-10 conference tournament at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 13 in Los Angeles.





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