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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Looking back: Tony Bennett-coached WSU took two of three vs. Mark Few’s Zags

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 24, 2020

Then-Washington State coach Tony Bennett celebrates after the Cougars’ 77-67 victory over Gonzaga on Dec. 5, 2006, in Pullman.  (By Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Then-Washington State coach Tony Bennett celebrates after the Cougars’ 77-67 victory over Gonzaga on Dec. 5, 2006, in Pullman. (By Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Gonzaga coach Mark Few knows exactly what his top-ranked team is facing Saturday against defensive-minded Virginia in Fort Worth, Texas.

Few saw it firsthand when Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett was leading Washington State from 2007-09, Bennett’s first head coaching job. Tony took over from his dad, Dick, who guided the downtrodden Cougars back to respectability in three seasons before handing the keys to his son.

The Zags won all three games – by 38, two and 14 points – versus Dick Bennett’s Cougars. Tony Bennett’s WSU squads went 2-1 against Few and Gonzaga, including a memorable matchup of ranked squads at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

“He’s an incredible person, awesome basketball coach,” Few said of Bennett. “He’s had great success, he had good success (in Pullman). We played really well the last time we played them. They got us in one that was really close here in the Kennel. It came down to the last possession, I believe.”

A look at those three GU-WSU encounters.

WSU 77, Gonzaga 67 (Dec. 5, 2006)

The first Gonzaga-WSU clash with Few and Bennett patrolling the sidelines occurred about a month before GU lost to Virginia 108-87 in Charlottesville – the most recent meeting between the Zags and Cavaliers.

The unranked Cougars trailed by seven with 7 minutes left but closed with a 14-1 run to take down the 18th-ranked Zags in front of 10,755, the largest crowd at Beasley Coliseum in nearly 12 years.

Daven Harmeling scored 20 points, including a 3-pointer with 45 seconds left, as WSU snapped a seven-game losing streak in the series.

Derrick Low led the Cougars with 22 points and Kyle Weaver added 16 points and seven assists.

“There’s been a lot of sweat and a lot of pain put in this program over the last three years,” Bennett said. “Finally, we rewarded the fans.”

Derek Raivio and Josh Heytvelt combined for 23 points, but the Zags struggled at both ends of the court in crunch time.

“They did a great job of getting themselves some open looks and we did a really poor job of defending them that last 5 minutes – actually the last 7 or 8,” Few said. “The Cougars deserve a lot of credit and Tony deserves a lot of credit for getting his guys to get that done.”

The Cougars climbed as high as No. 9 in the AP poll. They lost to Vanderbilt in double overtime in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga was eliminated by Indiana in the first round.

WSU 51, Gonzaga 47 (Dec. 5, 2007)

No. 8 WSU controlled the pace and shut down No. 17 Gonzaga in the McCarthey Athletic Center in the first series meeting with both teams in the rankings.

Gonzaga shot 26% from the field, its worst percentage since a 2002 NCAA Tournament loss to Wyoming. GU’s 47 points were its fewest in a game in 11 years. Matt Bouldin and Austin Daye, the team’s top two scorers, combined for seven points and missed 19 of 20 shots.

David Pendergraft (15 points), Micah Downs (11) and Jeremy Pargo (10) kept the Zags close, but Taylor Rochestie’s 3-pointer with 28.6 ticks left clinched WSU’s win.

“I don’t want to take anything away from their defense – it was good,” said Few, whose team entered with a 42-1 record at the MAC. “But a lot of those 3s were open and we just didn’t make them and a couple of the drives were there and we didn’t make them.”

Robbie Cowgill and Aron Baynes combined for 23 points and 18 rebounds and Weaver chipped in 12 points.

“It wasn’t a game where the offense was real pretty,” Bennett said. “So that required sometimes that you just throw it inside and let Aron horse one up or have Kyle make a play off the dribble.”

WSU beat Winthrop and Notre Dame before losing to No. 1-ranked North Carolina in the Sweet 16. Stephen Curry, who roomed with Bouldin on the USA U-19 team the previous summer, scored 40 points, leading Davidson past Gonzaga in the first round.

Gonzaga 74, WSU 52 (Dec. 10, 2008)

Pargo triggered a 9-0 run early in the second half that turned a close game into a rout as the Zags handed the Cougars the most lopsided loss of the Bennett era in front of 10,894 at Beasley Coliseum.

Gonzaga led by 33 points with 5:14 remaining. Heytvelt paced GU with 22 points. Pargo finished with 11 points and 10 assists and Daye added 14 points. Steven Gray contributed nine points and Bouldin added eight.

“When we’re clicking on all cylinders and we can push it up and spread the floor and get guys some shots, we can be pretty good,” Few said.

Baynes made all three of his shots, but rarely touched the ball and finished with 10 points, sharing team-high honors with DeAngelo Casto. Klay Thompson was just 2 of 9 from the field and scored four points.

“We lost our way,” Bennett said. “Everything we value we didn’t do.”

Gonzaga defeated Akron and Western Kentucky before losing to eventual national champion North Carolina in the Sweet 16. WSU finished 17-16 after losing to Saint Mary’s 68-57 in an NIT opener.

It was just the second time that ranked teams had clashed on GU’s campus. The 18th-ranked Zags blasted No. 13 Washington 97-77 four days after their 77-67 loss to WSU in December 2006.

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