Huge Second Half Sends Cougars Past Winthrop in NCAA Tournament, 71-40

March 20, 2008

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DENVER (AP) - The fourth-seeded Cougars broke away from a halftime tie to whip Winthrop 71-40 Thursday night in the East Regional behind 19 points and eight rebounds from Aron Baynes.

Kyle Weaver and Robbie Cowgill each had 14 and Derrick Low scored 11 for Washington State (25-8), which will play the Notre Dame-George Mason winner in the second round on Saturday at the Pepsi Center.

The Cougars, who are 51-16 under Tony Bennett, broke open a 29-29 halftime tie with a 23-4 run to cruise to their second straight opening-round win in the NCAA tournament.

After making 4 of 8 from beyond the arc in the first half, the Eagles (22-12) stayed away from Baynes and Cowgill down low and missed their first seven shots, four of them from three-point range.

Taj McCullough, who led Winthrop with 17 points, ended the drought with a breakaway dunk at 13:19 - his only basket after halftime - and Michael Jenkins, the Eagles' leading scorer, made his first and only bucket at 12:43 to pull Winthrop to 40-33.

The Cougars responded with a 25-1 run to make it 65-34 and erase all doubt about another shocker like the one Winthrop pulled off last year in upsetting Notre Dame in the opening round of the NCAA tournament in Spokane, Wash.

The Eagles surely were dreaming of another first-round stunner when they went into the locker room tied despite Jenkins, who leads the team with a 14.3-point average, having missed most of the first half in foul trouble. Jenkins went out with two fouls with 12:19 left before the half.

Making up for Jenkins' absence was McCullough and Chris Gaynor, who sank a trio of 3-pointers, including an off-balance shot that popped the net at the buzzer. Gaynor finished with 15 points, all on 3s, including one in the waning seconds that allowed the Eagles to avoid a single-digit second half.

As it was, the Eagles were outscored 42-11 after halftime.

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