PULLMAN – Even after the University of Arizona harried them into a 10-point loss almost a month ago in Tucson, the Washington State Cougars didn’t feel defeated.
Frustrated, angry and disappointed, yes. But defeated, no, despite having melted down in the second half against UA’s pressure defense.
So they returned the favor Thursday night – even down to waiting until the second half to take apart the Wildcats’ offense – and defense – en route to a 69-53 Pac-10 Conference basketball win before 7,957.
“There was a level of toughness in the second half that I thought was good,” WSU coach Tony Bennett said after the Cougars limited Arizona to 8-of-23 shooting from the floor in the second half and 40.9 shooting overall.
In the second half, the Cougars scored 43 points, hit 6 of 9 3-pointers and converted 17 of 25 shots, the last of which was Aron Baynes’ rim-rattling dunk with 54 seconds left. Though most may look at the second-half offense and place credit for the win there, Bennett looked elsewhere.
The third-year coach began with the play of freshman guard Marcus Capers, inserted into the starting lineup to pressure Arizona’s point, Nic Wise, averaging better than 20 points a game since the first WSU game.
“Marcus really extended his defense,” Bennett said. “We challenged him all week to pick up, to get after the ball and work. … We couldn’t get that matchup in the first half – Marcus had two quick fouls – and we just wanted to set our defense. The point of attack is so important for us defensively and it hasn’t been great all year.”
Wise took advantage of Capers’ foul trouble to get into the lane early and often, going into the locker room with 15 points and two assists. He finished with 19 and four.
He, Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill had all of the team’s 29 first-half points and helped the Wildcats (18-10, 8-7) build a lead that stretched to 11 with 5 minutes left.
Behind Caleb Forrest’s seven points, the Cougars (15-13, 7-9) went on a 10-2 run to end the half, drawing within three when Klay Thompson nailed a 3-pointer from in front of the Friel Court sign, some 24 feet from the basket.
Before the game, Thompson and fellow freshman Mike Harthun had been playing double-or-nothing from the exact spot.
Thompson said he would miss the first and make the second each time. He got one chance as the first half ran out – and hit it. It got him going, and he scored 11 of his 16 points after halftime.
“Klay’s 3 at the end was big,” Bennett said. “Just to crawl back in, because we struggled on both ends of the floor.”
“The last 4 minutes of the first half, we just had an opportunity to really … stretch the game out and we didn’t do it,” said Arizona interim coach Russ Pennell.
WSU tied it quickly after halftime, fell behind by three, then scored 11 unanswered points to take control. In the stretch, Forrest and DeAngelo Casto, playing the high post, combined for seven points.
WSU 69, Arizona 53
Percentages: FG .409, FT .611. 3-Point Goals: 6-16, .375 (Budinger 2-5, Johnson 2-4, Wise 2-3, Horne 0-2, Fogg 0-1, Lavender 0-1). Team Rebounds: 2 Blocked Shots: 1 (Hill). Turnovers: 14 (Budinger 5, Hill 3, Fogg 3, Wise 2, Johnson). Steals: 9 (Wise 3, Budinger 2, Hill 2, Fogg, Lavender). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .472, FT .909. 3-Point Goals: 9-22, .409 (Rochestie 5-12, Thompson 4-7, Harmeling 0-3). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 3 (Capers, Thompson, Casto). Turnovers: 14 (Thompson 6, Capers 5, Koprivica, Baynes, Harmeling). Steals: 6 (Thompson 2, Baynes, Capers, Rochestie, Caleb). Technical Fouls: None.
Halftime–Arizona 29, Washington Satte 26. A–7,597.