Cougars Face Bulldogs at Cougar Hardwood Classic Thursday

Dec. 18, 2007

NO. 7/6 WSU TAKES ON THE CITADEL IN 2007 COUGAR HARDWOOD CLASSIC: The Washington State men's basketball team (9-0) takes on cross-country foe The Citadel (4-5), Thursday, Dec. 20 at 7:30 p.m. PST at KeyArena in Seattle for the third-straight AT&T Cougar Hardwood Classic. The No. 7/6 ranked Cougars are fresh off a week and a half break, having last competed Dec. 9 with a 72-60 win over Portland State at Friel Court.

MORE ABOUT THE COUGAR HARDWOOD CLASSIC: The 2007-08 season marks the third-consecutive year of the Cougar Hardwood Classic held at KeyArena in Seattle. The Cougars are 2-0 in the CHC, as they defeated Utah 69-42 Dec. 22, 2005 and San Diego State 64-54 Dec. 21, 2006.

ABOUT THE COUGARS: Washington State is off to its best start since the 1991-92 season at 9-0. The Cougars are fresh off their 10-day hiatus for finals, having last competed Dec. 9 with a 72-60 win over Portland State at Friel Court. Led by the second-ranked scoring defense in the nation (52.4), the Cougars also boast a strong offense, ranking 15th in both free throw percentage (76.8) and field goal percentage (51.1). Also able to take care of the ball, WSU is 14th in the nation with 11.8 turnovers per outing Four Cougars are averaging double-figures this season, led by Derrick Low's 12.4 points per game. Kyle Weaver (11.8 ppg, 4.1 apg), Aron Baynes (11.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Taylor Rochestie (10.3 ppg, 4.9 apg) follow closely behind. Baynes' 5.8 rebounds per game leads the team, while Rochestie's 4.9 assists per contest are a team best. Robbie Cowgill has a team-high 11 blocks, adding 9.6 points and 5.1 boards per game.

ABOUT THE BULLDOGS: The Citadel travels to the West Coast from Charleston, S.C. A member of the Southern Conference, the Bulldogs are 4-5 this season. The young squad, which features 14 freshmen, is without its lone senior and second-leading scorer Demetrius Nelson, who will miss four weeks due to a foot injury. Freshman guard Cameron Wells leads the team with 15.7 points per game and 5.0 rebounds per game. Fellow freshman Austin Dahn is adding 11.7 points per outing, while freshman Zach Urbanus leads the team with 2.9 assists per game while putting up 9.9 points per contest.

THE SERIES: Thursday marks the first all-time meeting between Washington State and The Citadel. The Bulldogs are one of four first-time opponents on the Cougars' 2007-08 schedule as they have already defeated Mississippi Valley State (Nov. 24) and Air Force (Nov. 25) and host North Carolina A&T (Dec. 28). WSU is 1-1 all-time versus SoCon opponents with a 61-42 victory over Georgia Southern Nov. 24, 2004 at Friel Court and a 58-56 loss to Appalachian State Dec. 28, 1988 at the Holiday Classic in Toledo, Ohio.

COUGARS VERSUS NONCONFERENCE FOES: Under second-year head coach Tony Bennett, the Cougars are 22-2 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 19-18 all-time when playing on December 20. The last time WSU played on Dec. 20, they came away with a 62-55 win against Idaho in 2003. The Cougars have won their last five games on Dec. 20, their last loss came under head coach Kelvin Sampson to Arizona State, a 66-65 defeat in overtime.

WSU OFF TO BEST START IN 16 YEARS: Washington State's 9-0 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 three more nonconference matchups before opening league play at Washington Jan. 5, 2008.

RECAPPING THE WIN AGAINST PORTLAND STATE: Then-No. 8/6 WSU returned home to host Portland State, Dec. 9. Here are a few notes from the game:
• Aron Baynes, Robbie Cowgill and Nikola Koprivica combined for 31 of WSU's 35 first-half points on 14-for-15 shooting from the field.
• WSU's .727 field goal percentage in the first half is the Cougars' highest one-half field goal percentage of the season...previous high was .615 percent in the second half at Boise State (Nov. 13).
• The Cougars' .650 overall field goal percentage is the highest in a game this season...highest single-game percentage in the Bennett Era (Dick and Tony Bennett).
• Nikola Koprivica tied his career high with 12 points...most points in a game this season for him (career high set Dec. 28, 2006 at UCLA).• WSU improved to 6-0 all-time versus Portland State.
• Aron Baynes scored a season-high 23 points, two shy of career high...second career 20-plus point game...his six dunks were a season high...finished the game 9-for-9 from the field (career-best performance 10-for-10 against USC March 3, 2006).
• Robbie Cowgill recorded his 100th career blocked shot.

COWGILL REACHES 100 CAREER BLOCKS: Senior forward Robbie Cowgill leads the team with 11 blocks this season giving him 100 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 EYING 1,000 POINTS: Senior guard Derrick Low is just 93 points shy of reaching 1,000 points for his career with 903. The 6-2 guard has 112 points this season and is averaging 12.4 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: For the first time in school history, the Cougars are the highest ranked Pacific-10 team in the Associated Press Poll. At No. 7 WSU is one spot ahead of No. 8 UCLA. The Cougars are also the highest ranked Pac-10 school in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll at No. 6.

SECOND HALF STRENGTH: Despite trailing three times at halftime, the Cougars have dominated in the second half this season, outscoring their opponents 356-239 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 ranks second in the nation in scoring defense with 52.4 points allowed per game. A testament to their league-leading 51.1 percent field goal percentage ( 15th in the nation), the Cougars rank first in rebounding defense, giving up 26.9 rebounds per game. Three Cougars rank in the top four individually in the league in field goal percentage; Aron Baynes leads the league at .667, Robbie Cowgill ranks second at .654 and Taylor Rochestie is fourth at .615.

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 rank second in the league and 11th in the nation in free throw percentage (.768). WSU has made a league fourth-best 146 free throws out of 190 attempts. Two Cougars rank in the top four in the league for free throw percentage, Derrick Low at third (.833) and Kyle Weaver at fourth (.825).

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 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 head over to Pocatello, Idaho to take on Idaho State, Sunday, Nov. 23 at 1:05 PST. WSU leads the all-time series 3-1.

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