Conference-Leading Cougars Head to Arizona

Jan. 22, 2008

CONFERENCE-LEADING COUGARS HEAD TO ARIZONA: The No. 6 Washington State University men's basketball team, fresh off its first victory over Oregon in seven years, heads South to take on Arizona, Thursday, Jan. 24 at 6:30 MST at the McKale Center and Arizona State, Saturday, Jan. 26 at 5 p.m. MST at Wells Fargo Arena. Both games can be seen live on FSN Northwest and FSN Arizona.

ABOUT THE COUGARS: WSU (16-1, 4-1), led by the nation's top defense allowing just 52.5 points per game, jumped two spots to No. 6 in the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Polls after defeating Oregon State (69-46) and Oregon (69-60) in Pacific-10 action last week. The Cougars also took advantage of losses by UCLA and Arizona State to move into a tie for first place in the league at 4-1. Senior Derrick Low is coming off his seventh-straight double-digit point performance to lead the team with 14.4 points per outing. Center Aron Baynes leads the team with 6.4 rebounds per contest and is second with 12.1 points per game. Joining Low in the backcourt, Kyle Weaver and Taylor Rochestie have combined for 159 of the team's 246 assists (Weaver 4.2 apg; Rochestie 5.1 agp) and are adding 11.2 and 9.0 points per game, respectively.

ABOUT THE WILDCATS: Arizona (12-6, 2-3), led by assistant coach Kevin O'Neill this season, comes off a split in the Bay Area last week with a win at California (79-75) and a loss at Stanford (52-56). Two of the Wildcats' three league losses have come by five or fewer points, as have four of their six total losses. Arizona has also been involved in three overtime games this season, carrying a 1-2 mark in OT games. The league's third-leading scorer, Jerryd Bayless, leads the team with 19.2 points per game, while Chase Budinger is second with 17.1 points per game, including 19.6 points per game in league play. Jordan Hill leads the team on the boards with 7.9 boards per outing, adding 13.8 points per game.

THE SERIES WITH ARIZONA: The Wildcats leads the all-time series, 48-13 and 23-7 at Tucson. The Cougars swept the series last season with a 77-73 victory in overtime at Friel Court Jan. 6 and a 72-66 win at Tucson Feb. 1. Daven Harmeling averaged 20 points in the series last season, including a career-high 28 points with seven 3-pointers, in the first meeting. The sweep last year, marked the first for the Cougars over the Wildcats since 1982-83. For more on the series, see page five in today's notes.

ABOUT THE SUN DEVILS: Arizona State (14-3, 4-1), ranked 24th in the AP Poll, had its 10-game winning streak snapped and suffered its first Pac-10 setback of the season with a 67-52 loss at Stanford last Saturday. The Sun Devils, who share a piece of the Pac-10 lead with WSU and UCLA, have gone to overtime in two of their last three games, including wins at California (99-90) and against Arizona (64-59). Ranked fourth in the league in scoring, freshmen James Harden leads the team in scoring with 18.6 points per game, while adding 5.3 boards. Jeff Pendergraph leads the team in rebounds with 6.9 per game, while chipping in 14.1 points per contest. Ty Abbott, the only other Sun Devil to start all 17 games, joins the group in double-figure scoring with 11.2 points per game.

THE SERIES WITH ARIZONA STATE: Arizona State leads the all-time series 32-29 and 20-11 at Tempe. The Cougars swept the series last season and have won four of the last five meetings. Last season WSU won handily at Pullman, 75-55, but squeaked by with a 48-47 victory at Tempe.

RECAPPING SATURDAY'S VICTORY: The Cougars snapped their 13-game losing streak to the Ducks Saturday with a 69-60 victory at Friel Court. Below is a look at some highlights from the win:
• WSU trailed at halftime for the sixth time this season (34-30)...the Cougars are 5-1 when trailing at halftime.
• The Cougars took their first lead of the game at the 14:52 mark in the second half (42-41).
• WSU ended the game with an 11-1 run.• Derrick Low finished with 27 points...his ninth-career 20-plus point game...his fourth of the season...Low has scored a combined 64 points in the previous two meetings with the Ducks at Friel Court.
• The Cougars won their first game against the Ducks under second-year head coach Tony Bennett...WSU snapped a 13-game losing streak against OU...the Cougars improve to 72-57 at Pullman and 117-154 overall.
• Attendance: 11,120...Friel Court capacity is 11,761...WSU has attracted 10,000 or more fans to its last five games (all Pac-10 games).
• Taylor Rochestie's only points of the game (four) came on free throws in the final minute.

LOW REACHES 1,000 CAREER POINTS: With 15 points against Oregon State Thursday, senior Derrick Low became the 28th Cougar men's basketball player to score 1,000 career points. Low now has 1,039 points. The last Cougar to reach the milestone was Thomas Kelati who reached 1,081 points in his career which spanned from 2002-05.

WEAVER NOT FAR BEHIND AT 927 POINTS: Fellow senior guard Kyle Weaver is on schedule to become the 29th Cougar to score 1,000 points in his career, as he enters Thursday's game with 927 points. Weaver is averaging 11.2 points per outing and is on track to get the73 points he needs in WSU's next seven games.

LAST TEAMMATES TO REACH 1,000 CAREER POINTS: If Weaver can join Low with 1,000 career points, they would become the first WSU teammates to reach the milestone together since Terry Kelly and Don Collins accomplished the feat in 1980. Fellow senior Robbie Cowgill has 804 career points, 196 shy of 1,000. If Cowgill were to also reach 1,000, it would mark the first time three teammates reached 1,000 career points in the same season.

WSU EQUALS BEST PAC-10 START IN 25 YEARS: At 4-1, the Cougars equaled last season's Pacific-10 start. The start ties for the best opening to conference play since 1982-83 when the team started 7-0 in league play. The Cougars' 2-0 start to their Pacific-10 season this year marked the first time they'd won two-straight to open league play since 1994-95.

LOW COMES ALIVE IN SECOND HALF: Senior Derrick Low scored all 24 of his points in the second half at UCLA Jan. 12, 13 of them in the final five minutes of the game and 18 of his 27 points in the second half Sunday against Oregon. The trend has been going on all season, as WSU's leading scorer is averaging nearly 9.4 of his 14.4 points per game in the second half.

LOW ALSO KEY IN THE CLUTCH: WSU has trailed at halftime six times this season. In the six games, Derrick Low is averaging 19.3 points per game, 16.8 of those points in the second half. He's averaging 19.3 minutes in the second half when the Cougs enter the second period with a deficit, and is 24-of-34 (.706) from beyond the 3-point arc in the second half of those games.

HARMELING'S LUCKY BREAK: Since missing two games (Dec. 23 at Idaho State and Dec. 28 vs. North Carolina A&T) after fracturing his right thumb, redshirt junior Daven Harmeling has been on fire from the field. The forward, who averaged 6.4 points per game before the fracture and was just 5-for-26 from beyond 3-point, is averaging 9.0 points in the Cougars' last four games, including 12-for-19 (.632) from 3-point range.

COUGARS OPEN WITH BEST START IN 91 YEARS: Although their winning streak was snapped at 14, the Cougars opened the season with their best start since the 1916-17 National Championship team opened 15-0. The school record is 17-0, accomplished in 1914-15. WSU also went through nonconference play without a blemish for just the fifth time in school history and the first since 1935-36.

COUGARS MOVE UP IN RPI: Washington State moved up in the latest RPI (Rating Percentage Index) standings released this week to No. 18, second best in the Pac-10. The league as a whole ranks second in the RPI.

WINS AWAY FROM HOME: WSU has hosted just six games at Friel Court this season and are 10-1 in games away from Pullman. The Cougars are second in the nation for the most road/neutral-site wins in the nation with 10, trailing Butler at 11-2. North Carolina and Robert Morris have has nine road/neutral-site victories.

HOME SWEET HOME: The Cougars are undefeated at home this season and haven't lost at Friel Court since March 1, 2007. WSU has won seven-straight games in Pullman.

CUTTING IT CLOSE: WSU's seven-point loss at UCLA Jan. 12 was its first setback since March 17, 2007 in the NCAA Tournament to Vanderbilt. Although they are 34-8 in their last 41-games, the Cougars have not lost a game in double-digits in that span, their last double-digit loss came at the hands of Utah in their first loss of the 2006-07 season, Dec. 2, by a score of 69-55.

BENNETT REACHES 40TH CAREER VICTORY: WSU second-year head coach Tony Bennett reached his 40th career coaching victory as the team defeated USC Jan. 10. Last season Bennett put in the 13th-best coaching debut in NCAA Division I history as the team went 26-8. Bennett is just eight wins shy of 50 career wins, which would tie him for 10th in NCAA history for wins by a second-year head coach. Bill Guthridge holds the record with a 58-14 mark in his first two seasons.

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 later ranked ahead of UCLA at fourth, while the Bruins were fifth. The Cougars are again ahead of the Bruins in the polls at No. 6, while UCLA came in at No. 8 in the latest poll.

SECOND HALF STRENGTH: Despite trailing six times at halftime, the Cougars have dominated in the second half this season, outscoring their opponents 676-474 in the final 20 minutes of play for an 11-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). When trailing at the half, the Cougars are averaging 9.3 points in the final two minutes of the game, including 12 against Oregon and 21 at UCLA.

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. Now ranked No. 8, the Cougars have been ranked in the top-10 in all 10 releases of the polls thus far this season, including their first-ever preseason ranking.

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 two of WSU's final seven home games (California-Jan. 31, and Arizona State-Feb. 21).

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.

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 home for a four-game homestand as they host California and Stanford (Jan. 31, Feb. 2) and UCLA and USC (Feb. 7, Feb. 9) All four games will be televised live.

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