No. 4 Cougars Close Out 2007 at Friel Court
Dec. 27, 2007
NO. 4 WSU CONCLUDES 2007 HOSTING NORTH CAROLINA A&T: The No. 4 Washington State men's basketball team (11-0) returns home to for its final tune-up before Pacific-10 play opens up Jan. 5, as it hosts North Carolina A&T (5-7), Friday, Dec. 28 at 7 p.m. at Friel Court.
ABOUT THE COUGARS: Washington State is off to its best start since the 1991-92 season at 11-0. The Cougars concluded their nonconference road schedule defeating Idaho State, 75-45, Sunday at Pocatello, Idaho. Led by the top scoring defense in the nation (51.7 points allowed per game), the Cougars also boast a strong offense, ranking eighth in both free throw (77.9%) and field goal percentage (51.0%). Also able to take care of the ball, WSU is 10th in the nation with 11.5 turnovers per outing. All five Cougar starters are averaging nine or more points per game this season, led by Derrick Low with 12.5 points per game. Kyle Weaver follows with 11.8 ppg and 4.3 apg, while Aron Baynes is averaging 11.4 ppg and leads the team with 6.5 rpg. Taylor Rochestie (9.8 ppg, 5.2 apg) and Robbie Cowgill (9.4 ppg, 1.1 bpg) round out the group of Cougar starters.
ABOUT THE AGGIES: Not a stranger to foes from larger conferences, North Carolina A&T enters Friday's game at 5-7 overall and 0-1 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), including losses at Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Missouri and then-No. 22 Miami. The Aggies' high-scoring offense (76.9 ppg) is led by Steven Rush with 16.5 ppg, with just four starts in 12 outings this season. Jason Wills leads the team with 7.8 boards per game, while adding 11.3 ppg. Austin Ewing has a team-high 3.2 assists per game, while adding 10.2 ppg, while Thomas Coleman is solid on defense with 1.5 blocks per outing this season.
THE SERIES: Friday's meeting between Washington State and North Carolina A&T is the first all-time between the two schools. WSU is 4-0 all-time versus current members of the MEAC with wins over Coppin State (Nov. 26, 1993), Delaware State (Dec. 3, 1988), Florida A&M (Dec,. 14, 1990) and Maryland-Eastern Shore (Dec. 9, 2000).
COUGARS VERSUS NONCONFERENCE FOES: Under second-year head coach Tony Bennett, the Cougars are 24-2 against non-Pacific-10 opponents, their lone losses at Utah (Dec. 2, 2006) and versus Vanderbilt in the second round of the NCAA Tournament (March 17, 2007).
THIS DATE IN COUGAR BASKETBALL HISTORY: The Cougars are 21-19 all-time when playing on December 28. Last season WSU opened Pac-10 play Dec. 28 at UCLA, suffering a 55-52 loss to the then-No. 1 team in the nation. The last nonconference game on Dec. 28 for the Cougars came in 2003 at then-No. 15 Gonzaga. WSU fell, 96-58 in the contest. The Cougs have lost their last six games played Dec. 28, their last win came in 1990 over San Diego, 103-78.
WSU OFF TO BEST START IN 16 YEARS: Washington State's 11-0 start this season is the best by a Cougar men's basketball squad since the 1991-92 team opened up at 12-0 and is tied for the sixth-best start in school history. The best start by a WSU squad occurred in 1914-15 with a 17-0 record to open the season. Last season WSU opened the season 7-0 before falling at Utah, and started the Pac-10 season with an 11-1 mark. Including today's game, the Cougars have two more nonconference matchups before opening league play at Washington Jan. 5, 2008.
RECAPPING THE WIN AT IDAHO STATE: No. 7/6 WSU defeated Idaho State, 75-45, Sunday at Pocatello. Below are some notes from the game:
With 20 points, Derrick Low had his first double-digit output in four games, since 19 points against Air Force, Sunday, Nov. 25...had started the season with double-digit points in the first four games...second 20-point game of the season.
With his second 3-pointer of the game, Derrick Low passed Marcus Moore for sixth in the WSU career record books for 3-pointers made...now has 56.
Taylor Rochestie recorded a season high with eight assists...eight assists is his high as a Cougar (career high 11 while with Tulane).
Fifth 20-plus point win for the Cougars this season...second consecutive...third 30-plus point win for WSU.
Caleb Forrest recorded second double-digit scoring game of the season (11 points)...played season high minutes (28).
Kyle Weaver came one point short of his season and career high of 19 points with 18.
COWGILL REACHES 100 CAREER BLOCKS: Senior forward Robbie Cowgill leads the team with 12 blocks this season giving him 101 for his career. The Austin, Texas native ranks fifth on WSU's career list for blocks. James Donaldson holds the record with 176 which he accomplished in 84 games from 1976-79.
LOW MOVES UP IN 3-POINT RECORD BOOKS: Senior guard Derrick Low moved up a spot to sixth in WSU's career record books for 3-pointers made with his five made at Idaho State. Low now has 56 made 3's in his career.
LOW EYING 1,000 POINTS: Senior guard Derrick Low is just 67 points shy of reaching 1,000 points for his career with 933. The 6-2 guard has 138 points this season and is averaging 12.5 ppg. If Low can keep up his pace, he's on schedule to reach 1,000 points in January. Low would become the 28th Cougar to score 1,000 points in his career, the most recent was Thomas Kelati who reached 1,081 points in his career which spanned from 2002-05.
WSU HIGHEST RANKED PAC-10 TEAM FOR FIRST TIME: Earlier this season, the Cougars became the highest ranked Pacific-10 team in the Associated Press Poll for the first time in school history, coming in at No. 7, ahead of No. 8 UCLA. WSU is currently at No. 4 in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, one spot ahead of fifth-ranked UCLA.
SECOND HALF STRENGTH: Despite trailing three times at halftime, the Cougars have dominated in the second half this season, outscoring their opponents 431-291 in the final 20 minutes of play for a 13-point average scoring margin in the second period. The Cougars were outscored in the second half for the only time this season at Gonzaga (28-23).
DEFENSIVE DOMINANCE: Not surprisingly under Tony Bennett the Cougars find themselves at the top of the Pac-10 in several defensive categories. WSU leads the league and nation with 51.1 points allowed per game. A testament to their league-leading 51.1 percent field goal percentage (eighth in the nation), the Cougars rank first in rebounding defense, giving up 26.2 rebounds per game. Three Cougars rank in the top six individually in the league in field goal percentage; Robbie Cowgill leads the league at .656, Aron Baynes ranks second at and Taylor Rochestie is sixth at .581.
GETTING TO THE LINE: The Cougars have been successful at getting to the line and equally successful once they've gotten there this season. They lead the league and rank eighth in the nation in free throw percentage (.779). WSU has made a league second-best 183 free throws out of 190 attempts. Kyle Weaver leads the league with a .857 clip from the line, while Derrick Low is third in the Pac-10 at .824.
BEST 45-GAME SPAN IN NEARLY 65 YEARS: In their last 45 games (all under second-year head coach Tony Bennett), the Cougars are 38-7, matching the 45-game span record of Jack Friel's 1940-41 and 1941-42 squads. The best 45-game span by a Cougar team came from Fred Bohler's three squads from 1915-18 in which the teams compiled a 41-4 record at one point.
KOPRIVICA ENDS DROUGHT: Sophomore Nikola Koprivica ended his 3-point drought with his first trey of the season against Portland State Dec. 9. Koprivica finished the night 5-for-6 from the field, including 2-for-2 from beyond the 3-point arc and tied his career high with 12 points. Koprivica entered the night 0-for-12 from 3-point.
WSU EARNS BEST ALL-TIME RANKING: Washington State jumped three spots in the Dec. 24 Associated Press Poll and two in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Polls, coming in at No. 4 in both rankings. The No. 4 rankings are the highest for the Cougars in school history by the respective polls. WSU's previous high was No. 6 which was held this season. The Cougars have been ranked in the top-10 in all eight releases of the polls thus far this season, including their first-ever preseason ranking.
TWO STREAKS END AT THE LINE: Derrick Low had made 24-consecutive free throws dating back to last season, before his miss just under the nine minute mark of the second half against Montana Nov. 23 ended his streak. His streak ranks third all-time in school history and came just seven shy of the school record (31) set by Thomas Kelati in 2004. Earlier this season, Taylor Rochestie ended his streak of 19-consectutive free throws with his free throw miss in the second half of the game at Boise State. The redshirt junior had tied for the seventh-best streak in school history.
LOW AND WEAVER ON WATCH LISTS: Senior guards Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver have each been named to both the 2007-08 Naismith Trophy presented by AT&T Preseason Watch List and the Men's 2007-08 John R. Wooden Award Top-50 Candidate list. Weaver is also a preseason 2008 Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award Candidate and a Low's Senior CLASS Award Candidate. On top of that, Weaver has been named to the Basketball Times preseason All-America team and was named a third-team preseason All-American by Fox Sports.
COUGARS HOLD HOT TICKET: With expectations set high for the Cougars in 2007-08, tickets are going fast for WSU home games this season. The season opener against EWU was a sellout, as is the Cougars' regular season finale against Washington, set for March 8 and their matchup with Pac-10 favorite UCLA Feb. 7. Many other games are close to being sold out; for example, as of Nov. 21, 15 tickets are left for USC (Feb. 9), 242 tickets are left for Oregon (Jan. 20), and 440 tickets are left for the Feb. 23 Arizona game.
UNDER BENNETT: The Cougars' record has glowed under second-year head coach Tony Bennett. Aside from a 37-8 record under Bennett, WSU has only lost twice when trailing at halftime under Bennett (13-2). The Cougars are also 17-1 when shooting better than 50 percent, 23-1 when holding an opponent to under 40 percent shooting from the field and 23-2 when holding an opponent under 60 points (11-0 when holding under 50 points) with Bennett at the helm.
HARMELING FRACUTRES THUMB: Washington State redshirt junior Daven Harmeling fractured his right thumb in practice, Dec. 21 and is out indefinitely. His injury does not require surgery and his thumb will be X-rayed again in two weeks (approximately the week of Jan. 8).
BOEKE'S WSU DEBUT DELAYED: Washington State freshman Fabian Boeke has not been certified for competition by the NCAA, therefore at this time is not permitted to compete in regular season competition. Boeke, a native of Kummerfeld, Germany, played four seasons with the Ehingen Club team in Germany. The club team Boeke played on was a mix of high school players and a few older individuals. Members of that club team, not including Boeke, received stipends that the NCAA determined were above actual and necessary expenses. Therefore, the Ehingen team is deemed a professional organization by the NCAA. Boeke is currently eligible to continue practicing with the team while WSU continues to resolve the issue with the NCAA eligibility center.
LOW AND WEAVER REPRESENT WSU; USA: Seniors Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver became the first Cougar men's basketball players to represent the United States when they participated in the 2007 Pan American Games. The duo, which made WSU just the eighth school to have two student-athletes on the same Pan Am squad, helped team USA to a 3-2 record and fifth place finish. Low started three games averaging 14.3 points in those contests. Weaver saw action in three games, starting two and averaging 2.7 points.
ABERCROMBIE AND BAYNES AT WORLD GAMES: Redshirt freshman Thomas Abercrombie and junior Aron Baynes represented their native countries of New Zealand and Australia, respectively, at the 2007 World University Games. Abercrombie, of Auckland, New Zealand, averaged 4.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in route to a 15th place finish. Baynes of Cairns, Australia was third at the games in scoring and second in rebounding with 18.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per game in leading his team to a 17th place finish.
COUGARS GO INTERNATIONAL: The Cougars traveled to Australia and New Zealand for a 14-day international tour in June, 2007. WSU played six games in a nine-day span, finishing the trip with a 4-2 record, with both losses coming by one point. Among the highlights of the trip were visits to the homes of Auckland, New Zealand native Thomas Abercrombie and Cairns, Australia native Aron Baynes'.
ROCHESTIE GIVING BACK: Redshirt junior guard Taylor Rochestie decided to voluntarily come off his scholarship for the 2008-09 year, his senior season. Rochestie made the decision in order to free up another scholarship and give back to the program. WSU Head Coach Tony Bennett said of his guard's decision, 'I think this shows how much of a leader and great teammate Taylor is and for him to want to do something like this to help establish the future of our program in this manner is just incredible.'
UP NEXT: The Cougars open up Pacific-10 Conference play as they head to cross-state rival Washington to take on the Huskies, Saturday, Jan. 5 at 7 p.m. The game will be televised live on FSN Northwest.
TOMORROW | 5:30pm PTLive