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 at Pauley Pavilion: unbelievable.
“Unbelievable,” center Aron Baynes said of fellow senior Taylor Rochestie’s 33-point, five-rebound, four-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 Los Angeles 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 since 1989 to defeat every Pac-10 opponent. “Today, to finally get over the hump against a team like this, in an arena like this, it’s unbelievable.”
Rochestie 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, giving WSU a 70-63 lead. With 2:16 left, he nailed another 3-pointer to increase 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, 9-5) 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.
After Dragovic nailed a 3-pointer – 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 tipped in a shot like that before.
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 added another, and WSU withstood 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 regulation in a Pac-10 game since Paul Graham was coach.
“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.
Washington St. 82, UCLA 81
Percentages: FG .588, FT .824. 3-Point Goals: 8-15, .533 (Rochestie 5-7, Thompson 3-7, Koprivica 0-1). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 4 (Baynes 2, Casto, Thompson). Turnovers: 13 (Rochestie 6, Thompson 3, Baynes, Capers, Forrest, Koprivica). Steals: 4 (Rochestie 2, Capers, Thompson). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .527, FT .750. 3-Point Goals: 8-18, .444 (Dragovic 5-8, Roll 1-2, Shipp 1-2, Collison 1-4, Anderson 0-1). Team Rebounds: 0. Blocked Shots: 3 (Lee 2, Dragovic). Turnovers: 8 (Collison 2, Holiday 2, Anderson, Dragovic, Gordon, Team). Steals: 9 (Dragovic 4, Lee 2, Aboya, Anderson, Collison). Technical Fouls: None.
Halftime–UCLA 42, Washington State 42. A–10,392.