No. 8/6 WSU Men Return Home to Host Portland State Sunday

Dec. 7, 2007

NO. 8/6 WSU TAKES ON PORTLAND STATE: Washington State men's basketball returns home to Friel Court for the first time since Nov. 16 as it hosts Portland State, Sunday, Dec. 9 at 5:30 p.m. in the second game of a women's/men's doubleheader. The Cougars are 8-0 this season and off to their best start in 16 years, while the 6-3 Vikings enter the contest with a three-game winning streak.

ABOUT THE COUGARS: Washington State is off to its best start since the 1991-92 season at 8-0. The Cougars are fresh off their 51-47 victory over No. 17/19 at the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane Dec. 5. WSU is 2-0 at Friel Court this season with wins over Eastern Washington and Idaho, and is coming off a stretch of five-straight games outside of Pullman. Derrick Low leads the team with 13.5 points per game, while Kyle Weaver and Taylor Rochestie are also averaging double figure points with 12.0 and 10.9, respectively. Rochestie's 4.9 assists per outing are a team-high, while Aron Baynes and Robbie Cowgill share the team high with 5.4 boards per game.

ABOUT THE VIKINGS: Portland State enters Sunday's contest at 6-3 overall, including 2-2 on the road. The Vikings opened up the season with a 69-48 loss at UCLA, but have won their last three with victories over Portland, Utah Valley and Lewis and Clark. Scott Morrison, who missed Wednesday's game due to a sore back, leads the team in scoring and rebounding with 11.8 points and 6.3 boards per game. Jeremiah Dominguez and Deonte Huff are adding 11.4 and 11.2 points per game.

THE SERIES: Washington State leads the all-time series over Portland State with a perfect 5-0 mark, including 3-0 at home. The two teams last met Nov. 20, 2000 at Friel Court with the Cougars coming away with an 83-55 victory.

AGAINST THE BIG SKY: Washington State holds a 169-48 record against current members of the Big Sky Conference. The Cougars have defeated two Big Sky teams already this season (Eastern Washington, Nov. 9 and Montana, Nov. 23) and will face Portland State (Dec. 9) and Idaho State (Dec. 23).

COUGARS VERSUS NONCONFERENCE FOES: Under second-year head coach Tony Bennett, the Cougars are 7-0 versus nonconference foes at Friel Court and 21-2 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 16-10 all-time when playing a game Dec. 9. Last season four Cougars scored in double digits, led by Derrick Low and Mac Hopson with 14 points apiece as they defeated Idaho, 66-54, at Moscow, Dec. 9, 2006.

WSU OFF TO BEST START IN 16 YEARS: Washington State's 8-0 start this season is the best by a Cougar men's basketball squad since the 1991-92 team opened up at 12-0. 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 four more nonconference matchups before opening league play at Washington Jan. 5, 2008.

RECAPPING THE WIN AT GONZAGA: No. 8/6 WSU headed out on the road for its biggest nonconference test of the season as it faced No. 17/19 Gonzaga at the McCarthey Athletic Center, Wednesday, Dec. 5. The Cougars held the Bulldogs to 19 first half points, their fewest in 11 years, along with 26 percent shooting from the field and just 47 points. Below are a few notes from Wednesday's game:
• WSU is 40-196 versus top-25 4-6 when ranked facing a ranked opponent...have won last two meetings with ranked opponents (defeated No. 23 USC, March 3, 2007 in double-overtime in Pullman)...last win over a ranked opponent on the road came Feb. 1, 2007 over No. 20 Arizona.
• At least three Cougars have scored in double-digits in every game this season. (Baynes, Weaver, Cowgill).• WSU's 28-19 halftime lead was the Cougars' first lead at the half in three games.
• The Cougars held the Bulldogs to their lowest first-half points this season with 19...nine-point deficit marked Gonzaga's second-largest halftime deficit of the season.
• WSU leads the all-time series 49-18...WSU has won last two meetings after losing seven straight.
• Robbie Cowgill recorded his third career double-double and first of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds...the first WSU double-double of the season.
• Kyle Weaver held Gonzaga leading scorer Matt Bouldin to 0-for-9 shooting from the field as he finished the game without any points.

LOW EYING 1,000 POINTS; COWGILL NEARS 100 BLOCKS: Senior guard Derrick Low is just 97 points shy of reaching 1,000 points for his career with 903. The 6-2 guard has 108 points this season and is averaging 13.5 ppg. If Low can keep up his pace, he's on schedule to reach 1,000 points in January. Senior forward Robbie Cowgill has 99 career blocks, needing just one more to reach 100. He ranks fifth in WSU history for career blocks.

SECOND HALF STRENGTH: Despite trailing three times at halftime, the Cougars have dominated in the second half this season, outscoring their opponents 319-207 in the final 20 minutes of play for a 16-point average scoring margin in the second period. The Cougars were outscored in the second half for the first time this season at Gonzaga (28-23).

DISHING IT OUT WITH CARE: As of Dec. 3, 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 (as of Dec. 3). 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 (as of Dec. 3). WSU is ranked 11th in the nation in free throw percentage at 77.7 percent.

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.

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 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 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 take a week and a half off for finals before heading to the West Side to host The Citadel in the Cougar Hardwood Classic at KeyArena. The game is set for a 7:30 p.m. tip and can be seen live on FSN.

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