Cougars Pull Away From Oral Roberts In Second Half, Advance With 70-54 Win
March 15, 2007
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Kyle Weaver stole an inbounds pass beneath his own basket and dunked to barely beat the halftime buzzer - and what a momentum swing for Washington State.
The Cougars rode it right into the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Reserve Ivory Clark scored 19 points and Weaver had 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists, and third-seeded Washington State won its first NCAA game in 24 years, beating 14th-seeded Oral Roberts 70-54 Thursday in the East Regional.
Taylor Rochestie added 15 points and connected for a key 3-pointer late as Washington State pulled away with 59 percent shooting and one turnover in the second half. Clark provided a big boost off the bench by matching his career best with five blocks for the Cougars, whose special season will last at least another game.
They went from last place in the Pac-10 a year ago to second under first-year coach Tony Bennett. Fans chanted 'Tony! Tony!' before the game, then Washington State (26-7) went out and won its first NCAA tournament game since George Raveling's team beat Weber STATE 62-52 in 1983.
Ken Tutt scored 10 of his 19 points in the first half to lead Oral Roberts (23-11), the Mid-Continent Conference tournament champions who reached the NCAAs for the second straight season and fourth time overall. The Golden Eagles lost their opener for the second consecutive year.
The Cougars reached the tournament for the first time since current Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson led the school to the postseason in 1994 and a first-round loss to Boston College.
After a slow start with Weaver on the bench in foul trouble, the Cougars hit their final five shots of the first half and then their initial four after halftime to take control.
So much for those experts who called an Oral Roberts upset.
The Tulsa, Okla., school hasn't won an NCAA game since beating Syracuse and Louisville in the first two rounds in 1974 - when their mascot was the Titans.
Both second-generation college coaches had their successful fathers in the stands to cheer them on: Dick Bennett and Scott Sutton's dad, Eddie.
Washington State did everything right in crunch time. The Cougars started the second half 9-for-11 and used an 18-4 run to build a 44-32 lead on Clark's basket at 13:41.
They avoided becoming the second Pac-10 school eliminated on the first day after Stanford was routed 78-58 by Louisville in the South Regional in Lexington, Ky.
Rochestie made a twisting layin with just under 5 seconds left in the first half. Then Weaver, the junior star who recorded the school's first known triple-double in an overtime loss at Stanford on Jan. 13, made his powerful two-handed jam that sent Washington State into halftime down 28-26. The Cougars missed 10 straight shots during one first-half stretch after briefly taking their first lead, but finished well.
Weaver also had a pretty right-handed slam over an outstretched Marchello Vealy in the second half.
A strong contingent made the trek from Pullman, Wash., to support the Cougars, tailgating in the parking lots outside Arco Arena beforehand.
Weaver picked up two quick fouls and missed his first three shots once returning before making a putback with 3:34 left in the half that ended a more than 5-minute scoring drought for Washington State.
Oral Roberts center Shawn King blocked two shots in the initial 3 1/2 minutes and finished with three, but the Golden Eagles got only a quiet 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists from leading scorer and three-time conference player of the year Caleb Green in his final college game.
Washington State won the only other meeting, 98-50 on Dec. 10, 1993.
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