Cougars Beat Cal To Clinch Tourney Berth

March 6, 2004

PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) - A loss would have ended their season, so Marcus Moore and Thomas Kelati made sure they would be playing a bit longer.

Moore and Kelati each scored 16 points as Washington State beat California 70-58 Saturday, qualifying for the Pacific-10 Conference tournament for the first time in 14 years.

'Let the other night go,' Moore said, referring to a loss at the buzzer to No. 1 Stanford on Thursday. 'This was just a big game by itself. We did what we needed to do to get ourselves to L.A.'

The Cougars (13-15, 7-11 Pac-10) needed the victory to grab at least the final spot in the eight-team tournament, through a series of tie-breakers.

Later on Saturday, Southern California's victory over Oregon State put the Cougars at the No. 8 seed, setting them up to play No. 1 Stanford on Thursday - a week after the Cardinal beat WSU 63-61 at the buzzer.

'It doesn't matter who we play,' Moore said. 'We've played well against everybody. We're going back to where we got a two-game win streak.'

The Cougars swept UCLA and USC in Los Angeles for the first time Feb. 5 and Feb. 7.

Getting to the Pac-10 tournament was the top priority for the Cougars, first-year coach Dick Bennett said.

'We feel good because it was a reasonable goal, but hard to achieve,' Bennett said. 'We have a right to feel good. It was enough of a reach it made us feel good today.'

The Golden Bears are third in Pac-10 scoring defense, but Bennett said it was California's offense which gave the Cougars fits.

'Offensively, they just got into us like teams really haven't done all year,' he said. 'I think today, we made the plays and they didn't hit shots down the stretch, so they had to foul.'

The Cougars won despite hitting just 18-of-47 from the field, but making 27 of 34 from the free throw line and 7 of 19 3-pointers.

Moore added a season-high seven rebounds to go with six assists.

Richard Midgley led all scorers with 19 points for California (13-14, 9-9). Amit Tamir added 11 points for the Golden Bears.

California coach Ben Braun said his team played well defensively, holding the Cougars to 29 percent shooting in the first half, but missed opportunities on offense, particularly at the end of the game.

'We didn't take advantage of a couple of opportunities we had. You can't do that against Washington State and Dick Bennett,' Braun said. 'Turnovers, shots in the paint and missed free throws.'

Moore and Kelati combined for four consecutive 3-pointers to start the game, taking a 12-5 lead and holding on for a 31-25 halftime lead. Kelati finished 4-for-5 from beyond the 3-point arc. Ezenwa Ukeagu had 11 points for the Cougars. Jeff Varem and Shami Gill each added 10 points.

The Cougars led by as many as 12 points midway through the second half, then Midgley sparked a run that brought the Golden Bears to within one, 51-50 with 5:45 remaining. Free throws by Moore and Kelati down the stretch widened the Cougars' lead.

Washington State returns to the Pac-10 tournament for the first time since 1990, when all 10 teams played.

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