No. 7/6 Cougars Take on Bengals

Dec. 22, 2007

NO. 7/6 WSU HITS THE ROAD TO TAKE ON IDAHO STATE: The No. 7/6 Washington State men's basketball team (10-0) hits the road for its final nonconference road contest of the season as it takes on Idaho State (2-7), Sunday, Dec. 23 at 2:05 MT time at Holt Arena (8,000) at Pocatello, Idaho.

ABOUT THE COUGARS: Washington State is off to its best start since the 1991-92 season at 10-0. The Cougars are fresh off their 67-45 defeat of The Citadel in the Cougar Hardwood Classic at Seattle's KeyArena Thursday, Dec. 20. Led by the top scoring defense in the nation (51.7 points allowed per game), the Cougars also boast a strong offense, ranking 10th in both free throw percentage (77.2) and ninth in field goal percentage (51.2). Also able to take care of the ball, WSU is 9th in the nation with 11.5 turnovers per outing. All five Cougar starters are averaging nine or more points per game this season, led by Aron Baynes and Derrick Low with 11.8 points per game apiece. Baynes also leads the team in rebounds with 6.4 rpg. Kyle Weaver (11.2 ppg, 4.3 apg, 1.5 spg), Taylor Rochestie (9.9 ppg, 4.9 apg) and Robbie Cowgill (9.5 ppg, 1.2 bpg) rounded out the group of Cougar starters.

ABOUT THE BENGALS: Not a stranger to the Pacific-10 Conference, Idaho State is playing its third of four games versus Pac-10 opponents and second-straight, having fallen to No. 8 UCLA, 89-49 in its last outing Dec. 15. The 2-7 Bengals have played just two games on their home court this season and are 1-1 at Holt Arena. Matt Stucki is the only Bengal averaging double-digit points, averaging 12.9 ppg, while leading the team with 2.4 assists per outing. Lucas Steijn leads the team with 4.2 rebounds per outing.

THE SERIES: Sunday marks the fifth all-time meeting between the schools with Washington State holding a 3-1 advantage in the series. The teams met last season at Friel Court in Pullman (Nov. 21), with WSU pulling out the 66-60 victory. The series is tied 1-1 at Pocatello.

AGAINST THE BIG SKY: Washington State holds a 170-48 record against current members of the Big Sky Conference. The Cougars have defeated three Big Sky teams already this season (Eastern Washington, Nov. 9, Montana, Nov. 23 and Portland State, Dec. 9).

COUGARS VERSUS NONCONFERENCE FOES: Under second-year head coach Tony Bennett, the Cougars are 23-2 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 9-8 all-time when playing on December 23. The last time WSU played on Dec. 23, they defeated Fresno State, 69-66 at Friel Court in 2002. WSU has won its last four games on Dec. 23, its last loss on this date came at the hands of Northwestern in 1968.

WSU OFF TO BEST START IN 16 YEARS: Washington State's 10-0 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 two more nonconference matchups before opening league play at Washington Jan. 5, 2008.

RECAPPING THE WIN AGAINST THE CITADEL: No. 7/6 WSU took on The Citadel for the first time in the two schools' histories, Thursday, Dec. 21. Below are some notes from the game.• Aron Baynes recorded his first double-double of the season and the third of his career (16 points, 12 rebounds)...his 12 boards tied his career high.• WSU improved to 3-0 at the Cougar Hardwood Classic.• 12 Cougars saw playing time in the game...the first time in five games WSU has used more than nine players.

COWGILL REACHES 100 CAREER BLOCKS: Senior forward Robbie Cowgill leads the team with 12 blocks this season giving him 101 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 87 points shy of reaching 1,000 points for his career with 903. The 6-2 guard has 118 points this season and is averaging 11.8 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 390-266 in the final 20 minutes of play for a 12-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 nation with 51.7 points allowed per game. A testament to their league-leading 51.2 percent field goal percentage (T-9th 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 (as of Dec. 17).

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 10th in the nation in free throw percentage (.772). 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) (as of Dec. 17).

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 36-8 record under Bennett, WSU has only lost twice when trailing at halftime under Bennett (13-2). The Cougars are also 17-1 when shooting better than 50 percent, 22-1 when holding an opponent to under 40 percent shooting from the field and 22-2 when holding an opponent under 60 points (10-0 when holding under 50 points) with Bennett at the helm.

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 conclude nonconference play with their final game of 2007 as they host North Carolina A&T, Friday, Dec. 28 at 7 p.m. at Friel Court. The matchup is the first-ever meeting between the schools.

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