The clean up crews are working their way through Pauley Pavilion, picking up the debris left by 10,392 who probably couldn’t believe the Bruins lost today to Washington State. If they were in denial, they aren’t alone. It was hard for WSU to believe. Read on for the unedited version of my game story. I would write more but I have to get to the airport for my flight home.
• Here’s the game story, an edited version of which will appear in tomorrow’s S-R …
LOS ANGELES – Maybe it was the way it started. Maybe it was the way it ended. But it was as if the guys who made it happen couldn’t accept it.
The adjective of choice Saturday afternoon following Washington State’s 82-81 win over 20th-ranked UCLA before 10,392 in Pauley Pavilion …
“Unbelievable,” center Aron Baynes said of fellow senior Taylor Rochestie’s 33-point, 5-rebound, 4-assist and every-key-play-down-the-stretch performance.
“Klay (Thompson) got us off to an unbelievable start,” coach Tony Bennett said of the freshman shooting guard’s 13 points in the first 10 minutes, helping the Cougars build an early eight-point lead.
“I couldn’t believe it at halftime I look up and it’s 42-42. That’s usually our final score,” said forward Caleb Forrest, whose 12 points (on 6 of 8 shooting) helped WSU to its best shooting game of the season, 58.8 percent.
But believe it they finally did, though the Cougars had to weather nine of Darren Collison’s 20 points and 3-pointers by Josh Shipp and Nikola Dragovic, all in the final 1:24, to raise their record against UCLA in LA to 2-51.
“What’s been happening all season has been coming up short,” said Rochestie, now a member of the first Wazzu senior class to defeat every Pac-10 opponent since 1989. “Today, to finally get over the hump against a team like this, in an arena like this, it’s unbelievable.”
There’s that word again.
Rochestie, playing in front of “family, friends, cousins, high school coaches,” from nearby Santa Barbara, scored 14 of the Cougars last 15 points, including the three biggest baskets of the game.
With 3:56 remaining, he pumped through a 24-footer as Collison backed off, giving WSU a 70-63 lead. With 2:16 left he nailed another 3-pointer, this one in transition, to up the lead to 73-65.
“I was literally looking for every opportunity to win the game, whatever that meant,” Rochestie said. “In this situation, when I got an open 3, I felt my shot was going in (today), I wanted to take it.”
Such risk-taking was part of Bennett’s offensive plan against a UCLA (20-7 overall, 9-5 in the Pac-10) team that lives by forcing turnovers and took 13 from WSU.
“I told them, ‘let’s find our sweet spot today offensively,’ meaning run your offense to score,” Bennett said. “Be aggressive but don’t force it. Be sound and don’t get hesitant. You’ve got to keep running it that way.”
After Dragovic nailed a 3 – he was 5 of 8 from there, finishing with 23 points – Rochestie drove, missed a runner, but tipped the carom back in from about 8 feet away.
“Never,” Rochestie answered when asked if he’s ever tipped in a shot like that before.
“I saw an opportunity as (the ball) was coming toward me. It was frustrating because I came in and missed a shot. I could at least make a play on it. Having that tip go in was kind of the tip of the iceberg, icing on the cake for me.”
The hoop didn’t ice it, but it put the Cougars (14-13, 6-9) up 75-68. From there Rochestie hit six free throws, freshman DeAngelo Casto, who contributed seven points for the second consecutive game, added another, and WSU was able to withstand UCLA’s late rally that fell short when Thompson got a piece of Shipp’s desperation half-court shot at the buzzer.
“He was so tired, he was gassed at the end,” Bennett said of Rochestie. “And to step to the line and bang the shots, to get open and get the ball, to make those plays, that was iron will right there.”
The 82 points were the most WSU has scored in a regulation Pac-10 game since Dick Bennett’s first team did it at ASU.
“If you said we would give up 81 points, you think you are going to win in Pauley Pavilion, I would have probably said ‘we might get blown out,’ ” Bennett said, who matched his dad (55-48 in 2004), in the stands watching Saturday, as the only two Cougar coaches to win in Pauley.
“It’s fun when you can score like that. I’ll play like that all day if you can guarantee me we will shoot that percentage.”
The Bruins almost matched the shooting percentage, hitting 52.7 percent.
“We couldn’t handle the ball screen,” said Bennett, who had his team play one possession of zone in the second half – Michael Roll ended that experiment with a 3-pointer.
The Bruins’ dribble attack hurt Baynes the most, as the 6-foot-10 center picked up three first-half fouls, all on help, then fouled out with 13 points and six rebounds at the 2:50 mark.
“We needed him even when he fouled out,” Rochestie said. “When I was shooting free throws at the end, every time I hit a free throw I would look over and see his face.
“He hung with us all 40 minutes.”
Which is all Bennett asked for.
Before the game he told his players to “be thankful for the chance to play in a place with so much history. You respect it by playing your guts out.”
“You could see it by how gassed they were. Believe me, they did,” Bennett said.
NOTES: Thompson was officially credited with one blocked shot, but he not only got a piece of Shipp’s final attempt, he also blocked a drive by Collison with WSU leading 75-71 and a little more than a minute left. “I felt like I could block Collison because I’ve got like 6 inches on him,” Thompson said. “It was a huge play.” … So were a couple of point-blank misses by Shipp, who finished with 14 points, and Alfred Aboya (13 and 11 rebounds) just prior to Rochestie’s transition 3. Shipp had stripped Forrest in the back court, but missed a drive in traffic before Aboya failed to convert an easy put-back. … Rochestie was 10 of 10 from the foul line. … UCLA coach Ben Howland is the only Bruin mentor to lose to WSU in LA. He thought his team’s defense was disappointing. “We’ve been successful the last couple of years because of our defense,” Howland said, “and we didn’t play well enough defensively.”
• That’s all I’ve got tonight. I’ll have my usual next-day post in the morning, if I get out of bed. Until then …