No. 4 Cougars Take on Trojans; No. 5 Bruins

Jan. 8, 2008

NO. 4 WSU HEADS TO LOS ANGELES: The fourth-ranked Washington State University men's basketball team puts its perfect 13-0 record on the line as it travels to Los Angeles to face USC (9-5, 0-2) Thursday Jan. 10 at 8 p.m., and the fifth-ranked UCLA Bruins (14-1, 2-0) Saturday at 11:30 a.m., in the Cougars' first full weekend of Pac-10 play.

ABOUT THE COUGARS: Washington State concluded nonconference play unblemished and continues to rewrite the record books with their sixth straight win over Washington last Saturday in Seattle. The Cougars went undefeated in nonconference play ands started 13-0 for the first time since 1935-36 and the first time as a member of the Pacific-10 Conference. Led by the nation's top defense (49.8 points allowed per game), WSU is also productive on the offensive end, ranking 10th in the nation in field goal percentage with a .500 clip from the field. The Cougs are also taking care of the ball this season, turning the ball over 10.7 times per game, good for fifth in the country. All five Cougar starters are averaging eight or more points per game this season, led by Derrick Low's 12.9 points per game. Kyle Weaver (11.7 points per game, 4.2 assists per game), Aron Baynes (11.6 points per game, 6.4 rebounds per game), Taylor Rochestie (8.8 points per game, 4.8 assists per game) and Robbie Cowgill (8.7 points per game,1.2 blocks per game), join Low in the staring lineup.

ABOUT THE TROJANS: The Trojans enter Thursday's game at 9-5 overall and 0-2 in Pac-10 play after losing on the road to California and Stanford to open league play. USC continues to look for their rhythm as no player has started all 14 games. Led in scoring by freshman standout O.J. Mayo's 20.1 points per game (ranked 34th in the nation), the Trojans get major scoring contributions from Davon Jefferson (11.9 points per game), Daniel Hackett (11.5 points per game), Dwight Lewis (10.3 points per game) and Taj Gibson (8.9 points per game). USC has been in six of the 10 AP Top 25 polls this season, with their highest ranking coming at 18 in the preseason poll. The Trojans' 9-5 record is a bit deceiving as two of their three nonconference losses were by four points each to second-ranked Memphis and third-ranked Kansas.

ABOUT THE BRUINS: UCLA will host Washington Thursday before Saturday's highly anticipated top-five matchup. Heading into their game with the Huskies, the Bruins boast a number five ranking in both the AP and ESPN-USA Today Top 25 Polls thanks to their 14-1 overall record and 2-0 conference mark. UCLA is not just winning, but winning decisively as they lead the conference with a +20.0 scoring margin. Junior guard Darren Collison, a returning All-Pac-10 selection and second team All-American, has returned to the starting line-up the last eight games after missing the first nine with a sprained knee. The Bruins are led by heralded freshman Kevin Love's 16.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Josh Shipp (14.7 points per game), Collison (12.4 points per game) and Russell Westbrook (11.7 points per game) also average double-figure scoring with Luc Richard Mbah a Mute chipping in 9.7 points per game.

THE WSU-USC SERIES: Thursday's meeting between the Cougars and Trojans is the 104th in the two schools' histories as USC holds a 64-39 advantage in the all-time series. WSU trails 41-11 at USC, although WSU recorded its last win at USC last season, Dec. 30, 2006. The Cougars swept the regular season series last year, including a thrilling, 88-86 double-overtime contest March 3 at Pullman, but fell to the Trojans, 70-61 in the Pac-10 Tournament six days later. Washington State has pulled off the L.A.-sweep just once in school history, under Dick Bennett Feb. 5 and 7, 2004.

THE WSU-UCLA SERIES: Washington State trails its series against UCLA, 91-13, and has dropped the last six meetings. The last Cougar victory is also their lone victory on the road against the Bruins which came Feb. 5, 2004. WSU is 49-1 all-time at UCLA, but lost the last three meetings in L.A. by a combined eight points.

TOP FIVE SHOWDOWN: Saturday will mark just the sixth time in Pac-10 history that a conference game will feature two top five teams when the No. 4 Cougars face off with the No. 5 Bruins. The last occurrence was in 2004 when fourth-ranked Stanford defeated No. 3 Arizona 82-72.

WSU OFF TO BEST START IN 72 YEARS: Washington State's 13-0 start this season is the best by a Cougar men's basketball squad since the 1935-36 team opened up at 13-0 and is tied for the third-best start in school history. The best start by a WSU squad occurred in 1914-15 with a 17-0 record to open the season. The Cougars went undefeated in nonconference play for the first time since the 1935-36 season and the first time as a member of the Pacific-10 Conference.

OPENING PAC-10 PLAY: The Cougars won their first Pacific-10 Conference opener in three years with their 56-52 win at Washington Jan. 5. WSU has not gone 2-0 in league play since 1994-95 and has not started with three or more straight league victories since beginning league play 7-0 in 1982-83.

RECAPPING THE WIN AT WASHINGTON: No. 4 WSU defeated Washington, 56-52 in the two teams' Pac-10 opener Saturday, Jan. 5. Below is a look at the victory:
• WSU has won six-straight games over the Huskies...Cougars improve to 11-19 in Pacific-10 openers...second win in a Pac-10 opener on the road (both at Washington; 1987-88 season).
• The Cougars tied a season high with eight first-half steals.
• Aron Baynes set a career high with three steals...all three in the first half.
• First time this season WSU has scored fewer than 26 points in the first half.261 clip from the field is the lowest in a half this season by the Cougs.
• No first half assists for the Cougars marks the first time this season the Cougars have not had an assisted basket in a half.
• With two steals, Kyle Weaver moved into sole possession of fifth place in the WSU career record has 151.
• After missing the last two games with a thumb injury, Daven Harmeling had his second multiple 3-pointer game with two.
• Fourth time this season the Cougars have trailed at halftime and won.
• Fourth single-digit win for the Cougars this season (Air Force-9, Baylor-3, Gonzaga-4).

KEEPING IT CONSISTENT: The Cougars have stuck with the same starters in all 13 games this season, guards Derrick Low, Taylor Rochestie and Kyle Weaver, forward Robbie Cowgill and center Aron Baynes. The five starters have accounted for 699 of WSU's 891 points this season and 53.8 of it's 68.5 points per game.

COWGILL REACHES 100 CAREER BLOCKS: Senior forward Robbie Cowgill leads the team with 16 blocks this season giving him 105 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 MOVES UP IN 3-POINT RECORD BOOKS: Senior guard Derrick Low moved up a spot to sixth in WSU's career record books for 3-pointers made with his five made at Idaho State. Low now has 161 made 3's in his career. Low is 42 3-pointers away from Chris Crosby in fifth place.

WEAVER MOVING UP IN STEALS: Kyle Weaver moved into sole possession of fifth place in the WSU career record books for steals with his two steals against Washington. Weaver now has 151 steals. Isaac Fontaine is fourth on the list with 161 steals.

LOW, WEAVER EYING 1,000 POINTS: Senior guard Derrick Low is just 37 points shy of reaching 1,000 points for his career with 963. The 6-2 guard has 168 points this season and is averaging 12.9 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. Fellow senior Kyle Weaver has 888 career points, just 112 shy of 1,000. The last time two teammates reached 1,000 career points in the same season came in 1980.

COUGARS ON TELEVISION: At least 14 of the Cougars' 18 Pacific-10 Conference games will be televised live on either FSN or ABC this season. WSU's final two regular-season games have the possibility of being picked up as `wildcard' picks for television. The Cougars will appear on television a minimum of 18 times this season, which ties the 2005-06 team for the most televised games in school history.

WSU HIGHEST RANKED PAC-10 TEAM FOR FIRST TIME: Earlier this season, the Cougars became the highest ranked Pacific-10 team in the Associated Press Poll for the first time in school history, coming in at No. 7, ahead of No. 8 UCLA. WSU is currently at No. 4 in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, one spot ahead of fifth-ranked UCLA.

SECOND HALF STRENGTH: Despite trailing three times at halftime, the Cougars have dominated in the second half this season, outscoring their opponents 504-345 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 nation with 49.8 points allowed per game. A testament to their third-ranked field goal percentage in the conference at .501 (10th in the nation), the Cougars rank second in rebounding defense, giving up 27.6 rebounds per game.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 and rank eighth in the nation in free throw percentage (.773). Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver rank third and fifth in free throw percentage with clips of .838 and .831, respectively.

BEST 45-GAME SPAN IN NEARLY 65 YEARS: In their last 45 games (all under second-year head coach Tony Bennett), the Cougars are 38-7, matching the 45-game span record of Jack Friel's 1940-41 and 1941-42 squads. The best 45-game span by a Cougar team came from Fred Bohler's three squads from 1915-18 in which the teams compiled a 41-4 record at one point.

WSU EARNS BEST ALL-TIME RANKING: Washington State jumped three spots in the Dec. 24 Associated Press Poll and two in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Polls, coming in at No. 4 in both rankings. The No. 4 rankings are the highest for the Cougars in school history by the respective polls. WSU's previous high was No. 6 which was held this season. The Cougars have been ranked in the top-10 in all eight 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, while tickets are still available to the general public for just three of WSU's final nine home games (Oregon State-Jan. 17, California-Jan. 31, and Arizona State-Feb. 21).

UNDER BENNETT: The Cougars' record has glowed under second-year head coach Tony Bennett. Aside from a 39-8 record under Bennett, WSU has only lost twice when trailing at halftime under Bennett (14-2). The Cougars are also 17-1 when shooting better than 50 percent, 24-1 when holding an opponent to under 40 percent shooting from the field and 25-2 when holding an opponent under 60 points (12-0 when holding under 50 points) with Bennett at the helm.

BOEKE'S WSU DEBUT DELAYED: WSU received an official ruling from the NCAA regarding freshman Fabian Boeke's eligibility. He has been reinstated by the NCAA subject to the withholding penalty of sitting out the 2007-08 season and the loss of one season of eligibility. Boeke will have three seasons of eligibility remaining beginning the fall of 2008. In the meantime he is eligible for athletics aid and practice.

UP NEXT: The Cougars return to Pullman to open their Pac-10 home season as they host Oregon State, Thursday, Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. and Oregon Sunday, Jan. 20 at 5 p.m. at Friel Court.

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