Cougars Make Second-Straight Trip to 'Big Dance'
March 17, 2008
COUGARS MAKE SECOND-STRAIGHT TRIP TO `BIG DANCE': The No. 21 Washington State University men's basketball team heads to its second-consecutive NCAA Men's Basketball Championship. The Cougars (24-8) enter the tournament as the No. 4 seed in the East Region and will take on 13th-seeded Winthrop (22-11), Thursday, March 20 (4:20 p.m. PDT) at Pepsi Arena in Denver, Colo. The winner of Thursday's game will take on the winner of No. 5 Notre Dame versus No. 12 George Mason, Saturday, March 22.
ABOUT THE COUGARS
At 24-8 this season, the Cougars finished tied for third in the Pacific-10 Conference at 11-7.
Third-seeded WSU fell to second-seeded Stanford, 75-68, in the Pac-10 Tournament semifinals.
Four players are averaging double-figures led by Derrick Low with 14.1 points per game.
Kyle Weaver, coming off a career-high 25 points against Stanford March 14, is adding 12.1 points per contest.
Taylor Rochestie and Aron Baynes are chipping in 11.0 and 10.2 points, respectively.
ABOUT THE EAGLES
A member of the Big South Conference, Winthrop is located in Rock Hill, S.C.
The Eagles, under first-year head coach Randy Peele, are making their fourth-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and eighth in the last 10 years.
Winthrop is 22-11 overall after defeating UNC Asheville for the Big South title March 8.
The Eagles tied with UNC Asheville for the league title, but entered the conference tournament as the No. 2 seed after dropping the two regular season meetings with the Bulldogs.
Two players are in double-figures, led by Michael Jenkins with 14.3 points and Taj McCullough with 11.5 points per game.
Thursday's first round matchup is the first-ever meeting between Washington State and Winthrop.
WSU is 3-0 all-time against current members of the Big South. All three of those meetings have occurred in the last six years.
The Cougars have defeated High Point, Radford and VMI.
COUGARS VS. NCAA TOURNAMENT OPPONENTS
WSU is 10-7 this season against teams competing in this year's NCAA Tournament.
The Cougars faced 10 teams that are in this year's tournament, including five in nonconference play and five in the Pac-10.
They defeated USC (twice, No. 6-Midwest), Gonzaga (No. 7-Midweset), Oregon (three times, No. 9-South), Baylor (No. 11-West), Boise State (No. 14-East), Portland State (No. 16-Midwest), and Mississippi Valley State (No. 16-West).
The Cougars fell to UCLA (twice, No. 1-West), Stanford (three times, No. 3-South) and Arizona (twice, No. 10-West).
Only one of WSU's regular season opponents is in the East Region, as No. 14 Boise State takes on No. 3 Louisville in the opening round in Birmingham, Ala.
PAC-10 GETS NINE TEAMS IN POSTSEASON
Washington State is one of nine Pacific-10 Conference teams to make postseason play this year.
Six Pac-10 teams will play in the NCAA Tournament (WSU, Arizona, UCLA, Oregon, USC, Stanford), two in the NIT (Arizona State, California) and one in the inaugural CBI (College Basketball Invitational) (Washington). The Pac-10 is tied with the Big 12 and the SEC for the second-most NCAA bids by a conference. The Big East leads the pack with eight of its 16 teams making the tournament.
SECOND ROUND POSSIBILITIES
If the Cougars were to defeat the Eagles Thursday, they would take on the winner of the game between No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 12 George Mason Saturday.
Notre Dame, a member of the Big East Conference, is 24-7 this season.
The Cougars and Fighting Irish have never met. WSU is 6-6 against current members of the Big East. (DePaul 1-1, Marquette 1-0, Providence 0-1, St. John's 0-1, Seton Hall 1-0, South Florida 0-1, Syracuse 1-1, Villanova 1-1, West Virginia 1-0).
Colonial Athletic Association Tournament champion George Mason is 23-10 this season after tying for second in the regular season.
The Patriots and Cougars have never met.
The Cougars have faced just one current member of the CAA. They fell to Delaware, 55-50 during the 1986-87 season.
COUGARS IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
The Cougars have made five trips to the NCAA Tournament, holding a 4-5 record in the tourney.
Second-year head coach Tony Bennett is the fourth WSU head coach to take his team to the NCAA Tournament and just the second to take his team twice, joining George Raveling who took his 1980 and 1983 squads.
Bennett is the first WSU coach to earn back-to-back NCAA bids.
Last season the Cougars made their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1994 and recorded their first tournament win since 1983. They defeated Oral Roberts in the first round before falling to Vanderbilt in double-overtime in the second round.
WSU AT THE CENTENNNIAL STATE
WSU has played seven games in the state of Colorado, holding a 2-5 record in the Centennial State.
The Cougars last played against Colorado State Dec. 14, 2002 at Colorado Springs, resulting in a WSU loss.
WSU has played two games in the city of Denver and is 1-1 (loss to Denver and win over Regis).
BENNETT REACHES 50 CAREER WINS
WSU's 75-70 victory over Oregon March 13 gave second-year head coach Tony Bennett the 50th win of his career. He is 50-16 (.758) as head coach at WSU.
Bennett has the seventh-most wins by a WSU head coach. The only coaches with more wins than Bennett coached at least five seasons.
He already has more wins than two four-year Cougar coaches.
Bennett is tied for 11th in NCAA history for wins by a coach in his first two seasons.
With a win, Bennett could move into a tie for ninth place in that category.
Last season Bennett put in the 13th-best coaching debut in NCAA Division I history as the team went 26-8.
LOW, WEAVER EARN HONORS
For the second-straight season seniors Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver earned Pacific-10 All-Conference honors. Low was named to the third team, while Weaver picked up second team accolades.
Weaver was also named to the All-Pac-10 Defensive team.
Both Low and Weaver were named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Division I All-District 14 team. They are now eligible for the State Farm Division I All-America teams which will be announced April 5.
This was the second-consecutive season Weaver earned the honor, the first for Low.
Weaver was also named to the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) Men's All-District IX Team. It is the first USBWA honor for Weaver, Low made the team last season.
COWGILL NAMED PAC-10 SCHOLAR ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Senior Robbie Cowgill was named the Toyo Tires Pacific-10 Conference Men's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year, league officials announced at the opening round of the Pac-10 Tournament.
The four-year starter has excelled on the court, in the classroom and in the community, adding a 3.36 grade point average to his seven-plus points per game.
The Pac-10 acknowledges Pac-10 Scholar-Athletes of the Year in each of the league's 22 sports.
WSU is 15-4 in games played outside Pullman, tied with UCLA, Butler and Robert Morris for the second most road/neutral-site wins in the nation this season. North Carolina leads the nation with an 18-0 mark in games outside of Chapel Hill.
WSU went 10-3 on the road this season, marking the first time since 1946-47 that the Cougars have accomplished that feat. It is also just the 11th time in school history a WSU squad has won 10 or more games on the road.
THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE THE ROAD...
Taylor Rochestie has shown a noticeable difference in his shooting on the road this season compared to games played at Friel Court.
In games played on the road (including the tournament at Spokane and the neutral-site game at Seattle), Rochestie is shooting .529 from the field (74-for-140) and .529 from 3-point range (36-for-68).
He is averaging 12.2 points per game in those contests.
In games played at Pullman's Friel Court, Rochestie is shooting .412 from the field (40-for-97) including .311 from 3-point range (14-for-45). He is averaging 9.2 points per game at home.
In WSU's March 8 game versus UW, Rochestie scored a season-best at Friel Court with 16 points. He also made more than two 3-pointers for the first time at home this season, finishing with four (4-for-8).
WHEN WEAVER AND LOW SCORE DOUBLE-DIGITS
WSU's game against Stanford March 14 marked the third time this season the Cougars have lost when both Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver score in double-figures.
The Cougars are 11-3 this season when each of the backcourt duo puts up 10 or more points in the same game.
WEAVER GETS PAST 19...THREE TIMES
In the 107th game of his WSU career, Kyle Weaver reached the 20-point plateau for the first time with 23 points against Stanford Feb. 2.
Weaver had scored in double-digits 53 times in his career prior to his 23-point performance.
He added his second career 20-plus point game March 8 against UW with 20 points.
His previous career high was 19 which he reached twice, including once this season.
Weaver bettered his career high with 25 points in the third meeting with Stanford March 14. He also added his second double-double of the season and sixth of his career. Both double-doubles came against Stanford.
The 25-point performance was the first time Weaver had scored 20 or more points in regulation.
WEAVER DOES IT ALL
Kyle Weaver is believed to be the first player in Pac-10 history to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 400 assists, 150 steals and 75 blocks in a career. He currently has 1,084 points, 534 rebounds, 445 assists, 179 steals and 87 blocked shots.
Weaver currently ranks in the top-10 among active career leaders in the Pac-10 in assists (first), steals (first), blocks (eighth) and points (ninth).
THE 1,000-POINT MILESTONE
Senior Derrick Low became the 28th Cougar to score 1,000 career points just three points into WSU's win over Oregon State Jan. 17.
Kyle Weaver became the 29th Cougar to score 1,000 career points on his first basket against USC Feb. 9.
The last Cougar to reach the milestone prior to Low was Thomas Kelati (2002-05) who reached 1,081 points in Low and Weaver's freshmen season.
Low and Weaver became the first Cougar teammates to reach the milestone in the same year since Terry Kelly and Don Collins in 1980.
Three Cougars have never reached 1,000 career points in the same season.
Junior Aron Baynes, at 6-10, 270, has been an effective inside presence for the Cougars this season.
Baynes is fourth on the team with 10.2 points per game, leads the team with 5.7 rebounds per game and second with 25 blocks this season.
He's controlled 28 of the 33 jump balls he's vied for this season (including overtimes).
Baynes is averaging just over five points and nearly three rebounds more this season than through the team's 32 games last season (4.9 points, 3.0 boards).
ROCHESTIE PICKING IT UP THIS SEASON AS WELL
Junior Taylor Rochestie's numbers have gone up tremendously this season compared to at this point last season.
Third on the team this season in scoring with 11.0 points per game, he averaged just 4.4 points per game after 32 games last season.
Rochestie is also up in assists (this year: 146; last year: 59), rebounds (this year: 3.2; last year: 1.2) and most notably, minutes played (this year: 34.7 mpg; last year: 15.5 mpg).
PUTTING IT AWAY
The Cougars enter NCAA Tournament play with 99 dunks on the season. Fifty-seven of WSU's 99 dunks have come from Aron Baynes, while Robbie Cowgill has 24.
Last season the Cougars as a team had fewer dunks than Baynes does thus far this season.
Heading into tournament play last year, the dunk leader, Ivory Clark, had 29 dunks, Baynes had five and Cowgill had three.
Five different Cougars have dunks this season (Baynes, Cowgill, Kyle Weaver, Caleb Forrest, Thomas Abercrombie).
DISHING IT OUT
Despite ranking 134th out of 328 teams in assists per game, the Cougars boast two of the 100-best assists men in the nation.
Taylor Rochestie ranks 78th in the nation and Kyle Weaver 94th with 4.6 and 4.4 apg, respectively.
Rochestie also leads the league and ranks seventh in the nation with a 2.7 assist/turnover ratio.
ROCHESTIE NAMED V FOUNDATION FINALIST
Redshirt junior Taylor Rochestie has been named one of 14 finalists for the eighth annual V Foundation Comeback Award.
The annual award is open to men and women collegiate basketball student-athletes in all divisions.
It is awarded to an individual or a team who has accomplished a personal triumph in the face of true adversity, be it in health, life or moral dilemma.
The award is presented in memory of Jim Valvano, the late basketball coach and ESPN commentator, whose personal battle with cancer inspired the creation of The V Foundation.
LOW EYES 3-POINT RECORDS
Senior Derrick Low is just five 3-pointers shy of the WSU season record, having made 85 this season. The school record is 89 set by Jan-Michael Thomas in 1999.
Low is 20 trey's away from the WSU career record with 213. The record of 233 was set by Eddie Hill (1991-94).