PULLMAN – Looking forward to the Pac-10’s stretch run this week, Washington State men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett expressed one goal. He wanted his team to play better.
“I’m not sure,” Bennett answered when asked if Thursday night’s 67-38 rout of the Oregon Ducks before 7,068 at Friel Court was his team’s best effort of the year.
“They were struggling a little bit and hopefully we had something to do with that,” added Bennett before finally conceding, “There were good stretches. One of our better performances, certainly.”
The best stretch in the Cougars’ most dominating win over Oregon in 17 years – WSU won 90-55 in Eugene back in 1992 – came right at the start.
After allowing LeKendric Longmire to drain a 15-foot jumper at the 18-minute, 50-second mark, tying the game at 2, the Cougars tossed a shutout for the next 9:42.
The Cougars built a game-deciding 19-2 lead behind Klay Thompson.
“(He wasn’t) even seeing the basket and (was) hitting everything he put up there,” WSU’s Taylor Rochestie said of Thompson.
“I thought the way we defended, then, obviously, when you combine hot shooting with that kind of defense, that puts you in a great spot,” Bennett said.
WSU (13-11, 5-7 Pac-10) took a 14-point lead into the locker room, held Oregon scoreless for the first 4 minutes of the second half and led by as many as 33 when Rochestie nailed a 25-footer as the shot clock ran out with 4:32 left.
From there, the Cougars and Ducks cleared the benches. WSU played 14 players, Oregon all 12 who traveled.
Thompson was the catalyst on the offensive end, continuing his hot shooting of late. He came in having hit 13 of his last 23 shots, including 5 of 8 from beyond the arc.
Against the Ducks (6-18, 0-12), Thompson hit five of his first seven attempts, finished 9 of 15 from the field, 5 of 6 from beyond the arc, and poured in a game-high 25 points.
“He seems fresh and making some good decisions,” Bennett said of his freshman guard. “He’s handling it better. His shot selection is good, defending harder. Yeah, I think he’s really becoming more and more consistent. That’s good to see.”
“During practice I’ve been working on getting my balance right,” Thompson said. “I think, every time I shoot with balance and go straight up, I think it’s in almost every time. I start missing my shots when I’m off-balance and take off-rhythm shots.”
The Ducks, who came in with statistically the conference’s worst defense, didn’t do much to knock any of the Cougars off-balance. Washington State shot 56.8 percent from the floor and hit 9 of 13 of its 3-point attempts.
Thompson wasn’t alone, as Rochestie hit 4 of 5 3-pointers en route to 16 points and Aron Baynes, whose parents were in from Australia for the first time in his WSU career, struggled early but scored 11, all in the second half, and had nine boards.
“I thought Taylor (and) Klay shot, other than a couple, all rhythm, quality shots,” Bennett said. “They weren’t forces.”
On the other end, the Ducks were forcing shots just about every possession and shot just 20.8 percent from the floor.
“We just did what we always try to do,” Bennett said. “Make them earn every possession.”
Washington St. 67, Oregon 38
Percentages: FG .208, FT .636. 3-Point Goals: 4-18, .222 (Wiley 2-5, Humphrey 1-3, Porter 1-4, Brown 0-2, Sim 0-4). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 1 (Humphrey). Turnovers: 15 (Dunigan 5, Crittle 3, Brown 2, Porter 2, Longmire 1, Sim 1). Steals: 4 (Brown 2, Humphrey, Wiley). Technical Fouls: Porter.
Percentages: FG .568, FT .696. 3-Point Goals: 9-13, .692 (Thompson 5-6, Rochestie 4-5, Koprivica 0-1, Witherill 0-1). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 3 (Casto 2, Forrest). Turnovers: 17 (Harthun 5, Koprivica 2, Rochestie 2, Capers 2, Casto 2, Bailey, Thompson, Lodwick). Steals: 2 (Forrest, Harmeling). Technical Fouls: None.
Halftime–Washington State 29, Oregon 15. A–7,068.
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