Cougars Make First Trip to Regional Semifinals to Face Tar Heels
March 25, 2008
COUGARS MAKE FIRST TRIP TO REGIONAL SEMIFINALS: The Washington State University men's basketball team continues its best season in school history as it takes on top-ranked North Carolina in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional Semifinals. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:27 p.m. PDT at Charlotte Arena in Charlotte, N.C. The game features a clash of styles as the nation's second best defense (WSU-56.1 points allowed per game) goes up against the second-highest scoring offense in the nation (UNC-89.9 points scored per game).
ABOUT THE COUGARS
The fourth-seeded Cougars are 26-8 this season, having tied last season's squad for the most wins in school history.
WSU is allowing just 40.5 points per game in the two NCAA Tournament games thus far.
The Cougars defeated No. 13 Winthrop, 71-40, Thursday in the first round, then followed with a 61-41 victory over No. 5 Notre Dame Saturday.
Seniors Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver lead the team in scoring this season with 14.1 and 12.2 points per game, respectively. Both are averaging 14.5 points per game in the tournament.
Taylor Rochestie (10.7 ppg) and Aron Baynes (10.3 ppg) are adding double-figures in the scoring column. Robbie Cowgill is averaging 13.0 points per game in the tournament this season.
Rochestie leads the team with 4.8 assists per outing, including 8.5 per game in each of the Cougars' two NCAA Tournament games.
WSU is second in the nation, allowing 56.1 points per game.
The Cougs are third in the nation in turnovers per game (9.9), seventh in assists and eighth in assists/turnover ratio (1.4).
ABOUT THE TAR HEELS
The No. 1 seed overall, the Tar Heels are 34-2 this season and won the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season and tournament crowns with a 14-2 conference mark.
North Carolina is averaging 110.5 points per game in the NCAA Tournament this season with wins over No. 16 Mount St. Mary's (113-74) and No. 9 Arkansas (108-77).
Four players are averaging double-figure scoring for the Tar Heels, led by the nation's 12th-leading scorer, Tyler Hansbrough with 22.8 points per outing. He is averaging a double-double per game with 10.2 boards per game.
Wayne Ellington is adding 16.8 points per game, followed by Ty Lawson with 12.9 and Danny Green with 11.3 points a game.
THE SERIES WITH NORTH CAROLINA
Thursday's game is the first matchup between Washington State and North Carolina on the hardwood.
The Cougars are 2-4 all-time against current ACC members.
WSU has been ousted in the NCAA Tournament twice by ACC schools, including Boston College in 1993-94 (64-67) and Virginia in 1982-83 (49-54).
The Cougars have lost to Boston College, Florida State and Virginia (twice) and defeated Wake Forest (twice).
REGIONAL FINAL POSSIBILITIES
If the Cougars were to defeat the Tar Heels Thursday, they would take on the winner of the game between. No. 2 Tennessee and No. 3 Louisville.
WSU has never played Big East member Louisville and is 0-1 against the SEC's Tennessee. The two teams met in 1989-90 at the Volunteer Classic with the Vols coming away with an 83-82 victory.
COUGARS IN THE TAR HEEL STATE
Washington State's appearance in the NCAA East Regional marks the first time the Cougars have made the trek across country to play a game in the state of North Carolina.
North Carolina is one of 13 states that the Cougars have never played in.
Thursday's game will also mark the first time the Cougs have played in a directional state, they have yet to play in North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota or West Virginia.
WSU IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
The Cougars have made five trips to the NCAA Tournament, holding a 6-5 record in the tourney.
This season WSU advanced to the regional semifinals for the first time in school history.
The only other time the Cougars have won two games in the tournament came in 1941 when the field consisted of eight teams.
WSU has never advanced to the regional semifinals since the field expanded to 16 teams in 1951.
Second-year head coach Tony Bennett is the fourth WSU head coach to take his team to the NCAA Tournament and just the second to take his team twice, joining George Raveling, who took his 1980 and 1983 squads.
Bennett is the first WSU coach to earn back-to-back NCAA bids.
COUGARS TIE SCHOOL RECORD WITH 26 WINS
Washington State tied its school record set last season with 26 wins this season, evening last year's record at 26-8.
With its 20-win season, WSU has recorded 20 wins in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the 1940-41 and 1941-42 seasons. Jack Friel led his Cougars to four-straight 20-win seasons from 1938-42.
Not only is Tony Bennett the second WSU head coach to lead his team to consecutive 20-win seasons, he is just the third Cougar coach to notch multiple 20-win seasons at the helm for WSU.
With 26 wins this season, the Cougars have won 25-plus games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.
BENNETT REACHES 50-PLUS CAREER WINS
WSU's 75-70 victory over Oregon March 13 gave second-year head coach Tony Bennett the 50th win of his career. He is 52-16 (.764) as head coach at WSU.
Bennett has the seventh-most wins by a WSU head coach. The only coaches with more wins than Bennett coached at least five seasons.
He already has more wins than two four-year Cougar coaches.
Bennett is tied for fourth for the best start by wins by a head coach in his first two seasons. Bill Guthridge holds the record with a 58-14 mark in his first two seasons at North Carolina in 1998-99.
Last season Bennett put in the 13th-best coaching debut in NCAA Division I history as the team went 26-8.
LOW, WEAVER EARN HONORS
For the second-straight season seniors Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver earned Pacific-10 All-Conference honors. Low was named to the third team, while Weaver picked up second team accolades.
Weaver was also named to the All-Pac-10 Defensive team.
Both Low and Weaver were named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Division I All-District 14 team. They are now eligible for the State Farm Division I All-America teams which will be announced April 5.
This was the second-consecutive season Weaver earned the honor, the first for Low.
Weaver was also named to the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) Men's All-District IX Team. It is the first USBWA honor for Weaver, Low made the team last season.
COWGILL NAMED PAC-10 SCHOLAR ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Senior Robbie Cowgill was named the Toyo Tires Pacific-10 Conference Men's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year, league officials announced at the opening round of the Pac-10 Tournament.
The four-year starter has excelled on the court, in the classroom and in the community, adding a 3.36 grade point average to his seven-plus points per game.
The Pac-10 acknowledges Pac-10 Scholar-Athletes of the Year in each of the league's 22 sports.
RECAPPING THE WIN OVER NOTRE DAME
WSU held Notre Dame to its fewest points in a half and fewest points in a first half under eighth-year head coach Mike Brey...the Fighting Irish tied marks set in 2004 and 2003 with just 19 points.
The Cougars held an opponent to under 20 first-half points for the seventh time this season...the 10th time it's been done in a half.
WSU's one turnover is the fewest in a half this season...previous low was two twice, both against Stanford.
WSU held the nation's second best assist/turnover ratio team to a 0.5 assists/turnover ratio (seven assists/13 turnovers).
Notre Dame scored a low under Brey with 41 total points...ND's previous low was 48 (vs. North Carolina State, 11/26/05 and vs. Georgetown, 1/6/07).
With 11 rebounds, Aron Baynes had his second double-figure rebounding performance of the season...sixth of his career.
WSU is 17-4 in games played outside Pullman, tied with UCLA for the second most road/neutral-site wins in the nation this season. North Carolina leads the nation with a 20-0 mark in games outside of Chapel Hill.
WSU went 10-3 on the road this season, marking the first time since 1946-47 that the Cougars have accomplished that feat. It is also just the 11th time in school history a WSU squad has won 10 or more games on the road.
LOW SETS 3-POINT RECORDS
Senior Derrick Low set the school record for 3-pointers in a season when he hit two against Notre Dame Saturday, March 22.
He now has 90 3-pointers this season. The school record was 89 set by Jan-Michael Thomas in 1999.
Low is 15 trey's away from the WSU career record with 216. The record of 233 was set by Eddie Hill (1991-94).
THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE THE ROAD...
Taylor Rochestie has shown a noticeable difference in his shooting on the road this season compared to games played at Friel Court.
In games played on the road (including the tournament at Spokane and the neutral-site game at Seattle), Rochestie is shooting .517 from the field (78-for-152) and .513 from 3-point range (39-for-76).
He is averaging 11.6 points per game in those contests.
In games played at Pullman's Friel Court, Rochestie is shooting .412 from the field (40-for-97) including .311 from 3-point range (14-for-45). He is averaging 9.2 points per game at home.
In WSU's March 8 game versus UW, Rochestie scored a season-best at Friel Court with 16 points. He also made more than two 3-pointers for the first time at home this season, finishing with four (4-for-8).
WHEN WEAVER AND LOW SCORE DOUBLE-DIGITS
WSU's game against Stanford March 14 marked the third time this season the Cougars have lost when both Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver score in double-figures.
The Cougars are 13-3 this season when each of the backcourt duo puts up 10 or more points in the same game.
WEAVER GETS PAST 19...THREE TIMES
In the 107th game of his WSU career, Kyle Weaver reached the 20-point plateau for the first time with 23 points against Stanford Feb. 2.
Weaver had scored in double-digits 53 times in his career prior to his 23-point performance.
He added his second career 20-plus point game March 8 against UW with 20 points.
His previous career high was 19 which he reached twice, including once this season.
Weaver bettered his career high with 25 points in the third meeting with Stanford March 14. He also added his second double-double of the season and sixth of his career. Both double-doubles came against Stanford. The 25-point performance was the first time Weaver had scored 20 or more points in regulation.
WEAVER DOES IT ALL
Kyle Weaver is believed to be the first player in Pac-10 history to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 400 assists, 150 steals and 75 blocks in a career.
Weaver currently ranks in the top-10 among active career leaders in the Pac-10 in assists (first), steals (first), blocks (eighth) and points (ninth).
THE 1,000-POINT MILESTONE
Senior Derrick Low became the 28th Cougar to score 1,000 career points just three points into WSU's win over Oregon State Jan. 17.
Kyle Weaver became the 29th Cougar to score 1,000 career points on his first basket against USC Feb. 9.
The last Cougar to reach the milestone prior to Low was Thomas Kelati (2002-05) who reached 1,081 points in Low and Weaver's freshmen season.
Low and Weaver became the first Cougar teammates to reach the milestone in the same year since Terry Kelly and Don Collins in 1980.
Three Cougars have never reached 1,000 career points in the same season.
Junior Aron Baynes, at 6-10, 270, has been an effective inside presence for the Cougars this season.
Baynes is fourth on the team with 10.3 points per game, leads the team with 5.9 rebounds per game and second with 26 blocks this season.
He's controlled 30 of the 35 jump balls he's vied for this season (including overtimes).
Baynes is averaging just over five points and nearly three rebounds more this season than through the team's 33 games last season (5.2 points, 3.1 boards).
ROCHESTIE PICKING IT UP THIS SEASON AS WELL
Junior Taylor Rochestie's numbers have gone up tremendously this season compared to at this point last season.
Third on the team this season in scoring with 10.7 points per game, he averaged just 4.6 points per game after 34 games last season.
Rochestie is also up in assists (this year: 163; last year: 66), rebounds (this year: 3.2; last year: 1.4) and most notably, minutes played (this year: 34.9 mpg; last year: 16.8 mpg).
PUTTING IT AWAY
The Cougars enter NCAA Tournament Regional with 105 dunks on the season. Sixty-one of WSU's 105 dunks have come from Aron Baynes, while Robbie Cowgill has 26.
Last season the Cougars as a team had fewer dunks than Baynes does thus far this season with 56.
Last season the dunk leader was Ivory Clark with 31 dunks, Baynes had five and Cowgill had three.
Five different Cougars have dunks this season (Baynes, Cowgill, Kyle Weaver, Caleb Forrest, Thomas Abercrombie).
DISHING IT OUT
Despite ranking 126th out of 328 teams in assists per game, the Cougars boast two of the 110-best assists men in the nation.
Taylor Rochestie ranks 71st in the nation and Kyle Weaver 107th with 4.8 and 4.3 apg, respectively.
Rochestie also leads the league and is tied for third in the nation with a 2.8 assist/turnover ratio.
DEFENSE CLAMPS DOWN OUT OF CONFERENCE
Although the Cougars are second in the nation allowing 56.1 points per game, they are allowing even fewer against non-Pacific-10 Conference teams.
WSU is allowing just 48.4 points against opponents not in the league.
The Cougs' last five out of league opponents (Notre Dame, Winthrop, North Carolina A&T, Idaho State and The Citadel) scored a combined 205 points, averaging 41 points per game.
WSU allowed more than 65 points to a non-Pac-10 foe just once this season, giving up 74 to Boise State.
WSU VS. RANKED OPPONENTS
WSU got its first win over a higher ranked opponent March 22 with its win over No. 15 Notre Dame.
The Cougars are 42-201 all-time against top-25 opponents. Their meeting with the No. 1-ranked Tar Heels is the 26th all-time meeting with No. 1 for the Cougs and the first this season.
The Cougars are 0-25 all-time against the top-ranked team in the nation. WSU has never faced a No. 1 team that is not a member of the Pac-10.
ROCHESTIE NAMED V FOUNDATION FINALIST
Redshirt junior Taylor Rochestie has been named one of 14 finalists for the eighth annual V Foundation Comeback Award.
The annual award is open to men and women collegiate basketball student-athletes in all divisions.
It is awarded to an individual or a team who has accomplished a personal triumph in the face of true adversity, be it in health, life or moral dilemma.
The award is presented in memory of Jim Valvano, the late basketball coach and ESPN commentator, whose personal battle with cancer inspired the creation of The V Foundation.
LOW IN THE SECOND HALF
Senior Derrick Low has been key in the clutch for the Cougars this season.
When WSU trails or is tied at the half, Low is averaging 14.5 points per game.
Of his 14.5 points per game, 12.0 of them are coming in the second half. Low has scored in double-figures six times in the second half when WSU is trailing, including 24 at UCLA.
Low has not scored in the first half seven times, he has not scored in the second half just once (60-53 loss at Stanford March 1).
COUGARS VS. NCAA TOURNAMENT OPPONENTS
After its wins in the first and second rounds, WSU is 12-7 this season against teams competing in this year's NCAA Tournament.
Outside of the tournament, the Cougars faced 10 teams that are in this year's tournament, including five in nonconference play and five in the Pac-10.
They defeated USC (twice, No. 6-Midwest), Gonzaga (No. 7-Midweset), Oregon (three times, No. 9-South), Baylor (No. 11-West), Boise State (No. 14-East), Portland State (No. 16-Midwest), and Mississippi Valley State (No. 16-West).
The Cougars fell to UCLA (twice, No. 1-West), Stanford (three times, No. 3-South) and Arizona (twice, No. 10-West).