No. 8/6 Cougars Hit the Road to Face No. 17/19 Bulldogs

Dec. 3, 2007

NO. 6 WSU TAKES ON NO. 19 GONZAGA: Washington State men's basketball takes its No. 8/6 rankings into hostile territory as it heads up highway 195 to take on No. 19 Gonzaga, Wednesday, Dec. 5 at the McCarthy Athletic Center. The matchup scheduled for 8 p.m. PST can be seen nationally on ESPNU. The Cougars, fresh off a come-from-behind victory at Baylor Friday, face another tough road test taking on their first ranked team of the season in the Bulldogs. Wednesday's meeting marks the first time the two teams have met while both are nationally ranked.

ABOUT THE COUGARS: The Cougars carry a No. 8 ranking in the Associated Press Poll, falling two spots from last week, and No. 6 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and enter their game at Gonzaga with a perfect 7-0 mark. Derrick Low leads the team with 14.6 points per game, while Aron Baynes' 5.1 boards per outing are a team-best. Taylor Rochestie leads the team with 5.0 assists per game, while Low is averaging 1.4 steals per contest. With seven-straight victories to open the season, WSU is off to the school's best start since the 1991-92 squad opened the season winning its first 12 contests.

ABOUT THE BULLDOGS: Gonzaga is jumping back up the rankings at No. 17 in the AP Poll and No. 19 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll with a 7-1 record after defeating Connecticut and Saint Joseph's out on the East Coast last week. The Bulldogs' lone loss of the season came at the hands of Texas Tech at the Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage Nov. 23, on their way to a third-place showing at the tournament. The Cougars and Bulldogs have two common foes as Gonzaga opened its season with wins at home versus Montana (77-54) and Idaho (80-43). Three Bulldogs are averaging double-digit points this season led by Matt Bouldin with 14.4 points per game. Micah Downs leads the team with 5.9 rebounds per contest, while Jeremy Pargo is dishing out 5.13 assists per outing. Austin Daye is blocking 2.13 shots per game, while averaging a team second-best 13.1 points per game.

FIRST MEETING OF THE RANKED COUGARS AND BULLDOGS: Wednesday's game is the first contest between Washington State and Gonzaga when both teams are ranked in the top 25. The Cougars are 1-4 all-time when facing the ranked Bulldogs with their first win coming last season, a 77-67 victory, over the 18th-ranked team in the nation at Friel Court in Pullman. The two teams have never met when WSU has been ranked. Below is a look at the series when Gonzaga is ranked:
Date Location GU Ranking W/L Score
Dec. 15, 2001 Spokane 25 L 67-44
Dec. 28, 2003 Spokane 15 L 96-58
Dec. 7, 2004 Pullman 25 L 54-52
Dec. 8, 2005 Spokane 9 L 67-53
Dec. 5, 2006 Pullman 18 W 77-67

MORE ON RANKINGS: The Cougars are 39-196 all-time versus top-25 opponents, including a 7-104 mark as the visitor and 4-35 in the month of December. WSU won its last meeting with a ranked opponent, an 88-86 double-overtime victory over No. 23 USC, March 3 in Pullman. WSU is 3-6 all-time when facing a top-25 team while ranked, including 3-1 when facing a lower ranked opponent. The Cougars are 1-3 when ranked and facing a ranked foe on the road. Below is a breakdown of WSU against ranked opponents:
WSU Versus...
Top 25 Opponents: 39-196
Top 25 Opponents Away: 7-104
Top 25 Opponents in December: 4-35
Top 25 Gonzaga Teams: 1-4
Top 25 Opponents While Ranked: 3-6
Top 25 Opponents While Ranked Away: 1-3
Lower Ranked Top 25 Opponents: 3-1

RECAPPING LAST WEEK: WSU headed out on the road for its second true road contest of the season and first big test as it took on Baylor at Waco, Texas in the inaugural Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series. The Cougars handed the Bears their first loss of the season, dropping them to 5-1 with a 67-64 victory. WSU had to come back after trailing at halftime for the third time this season, this time overcoming its largest halftime deficit of 12 points. Below are a few notes from last week's game:
• The Cougars have come from behind when trailing at halftime for three victories this season...WSU is 3-0 this season and 13-2 under Tony Bennett when trailing at the half.
• WSU's 38-26 halftime deficit is the largest halftime deficit of the season...the third time the Cougars have trailed at halftime this season...WSU has trailed at halftime in both road games this season...all three times the Cougars have trailed at half, they've had 26 points.
• The Cougars got a combined 38 minutes from their bench in the first half...WSU got a total of just 30 and 41 minutes, respectively, from the bench in two of its previous three games.
• Austin native Robbie Cowgill tied his career high with 18 points on his first game in his home state of Texas as a Cougar.• The first time all season none of the three starting guards (Low, Rochestie, Weaver) have scored in double-digits (Cowgill 18, Harmeling 10, Baynes 10).

THE SERIES: The Cougars hold a 96-45 advantage in the all-time series against the Bulldogs, but are just 1-7 in the last eight meetings. WSU snapped a seven-game losing streak to Gonzaga with last season's victory. For more on the series, see page five in this week's notes.

LOW EYING 1,000 POINTS: Senior guard Derrick Low is just 103 points shy of reaching 1,000 points for his career with 897. The 6-2 guard has 99 points this season and is averaging 14.6 ppg. If Low can keep up his pace, he's on schedule to reach 1,000 points in early January (in seven more games).

SECOND HALF STRENGTH: Despite trailing three times at halftime, the Cougars have dominated in the second half this season, outscoring their opponents 296-179 in the final 20 minutes of play for a 16-point average scoring margin in the second period. The Cougars have not been outscored in the second half this season.

DISHING IT OUT WITH CARE: WSU leads the Pac-10 in assists/turnover ratio at 1.36 and is second in turnover margin at +3.71. The 1.36 assists/turnover ration ranks 15th in the nation. On top of that, Taylor Rochestie leads the league with a 3.5 assist/turnover ration, 0.5 better than the second-best mark in the league.

DEFENSIVE DOMINANCE: Not surprisingly under Tony Bennett the Cougars find themselves at the top of the Pac-10 in several defensive categories. WSU ranks first in scoring defense (52.1 ppg) and rebounding defense (26.9 rpg) and is second in field goal percentage defense (.391).

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 in free throw percentage (78.3 percent) and are third in the league with 123 free throws made. WSU is ranked 6th in the nation in free throw percentage.

BIG TEXAS HOMECOMING FOR COWGILL: Senior Robbie Cowgill played his first basketball game in his home state of Texas as a Cougar Nov. 30 when WSU took on Baylor in Waco. Cowgill, a native of Austin, had a huge night, leading the Cougars while tying a career-high with 18 points. Cowgill also provided WSU with some breathing room as his tip-in with 11 seconds remaining in the game gave his team a three-point lead as it went on to a 67-64 victory.

THIS DATE IN WSU BASKETBALL HISTORY: The Cougars are currently 15-9 when competing Dec. 5 and carry a 3-3 record when taking on Gonzaga. Prior to last season's Dec. 5th victory over the Bulldogss, head coach George Raveling led his Cougars to a 75-58 victory over Gonzaga in Spokane, Dec. 5, 1979 en route to their first NCAA tournament berth in 39 years. Senior Don Collins lit up the stat sheet with 32 points behind 15-for-19 shooting from the field and also recorded five steals, three assists, and six rebounds. Senior Stuart House pulled down nine boards and tallied six blocks. Despite a closer second half, the Bulldogs never had a chance as the Cougars first half effort (31-15) put Gonzaga away early. Collins, who is third on WSU's career list for points with 1,563, set school single-season records averaging 23.1 points and 2.71 steals per game.

WSU EARNS BEST ALL-TIME RANKING: Washington State jumped three spots in the Nov. 27 Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Polls, coming in at No. 6 in both rankings. The No. 6 rankings are the highest for the Cougars in school history by the respective polls. WSU's previous high was No. 9 which was held for two weeks this season and one week last season in the AP Poll. The Cougars have been ranked in the top-10 in all four 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. 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 33-8 record under Bennett, WSU has only lost twice when trailing at halftime under Bennett (13-2). The Cougars are also 15-1 when shooting better than 50 percent, 20-1 when holding an opponent to under 40 percent shooting from the field and 20-2 when holding an opponent under 60 points (8-0 when holding under 50 points) with Bennett at the helm. The Cougars are 14-0 under Bennett in the month of November.

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 return to Pullman for the first time since Nov. 16 as they host Portland State, Sunday, Dec. 9 at 5:30 p.m. at Friel Court. The game follows the women's 3 p.m. battle with Boise State in the teams' second doubleheader of the season.

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