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February 15, 2007

Huskies Are Back...To Reality

The sweet smell of success came to Seattle with the 10th-ranked Washington State University Cougar men's basketball team - and it smelled even sweeter as they pulled off what only one other team has done so far this year - beat the Huskies on their home court. The Cougars beat the Huskies - with a healthy Spencer Hawes - by a 65-61 margin as junior Derrick Low hit a pair of free throws with 16 seconds left and junior Robbie Cowgill added another to clinch the win before a sold-out [some scalpers' prices were reported to be as high as $200 per ticket] Bank of America Arena crowd of 10,000. The Cougars continued their recent dominance over the rival Huskies, having now won the last four meetings for their longest win streak in the series since 1995. The victory moves them to 22-4 overall - likely clinching an NCAA tournament berth - and keeps them in sole possession of second place in the Pac-10 at 11-3. The win completed another season sweep of the Washington and is the first consecutive season sweeps of the Huskies since the 1967-68 and 1968-69 seasons.


The Cougars had three players reach double figures, led by sophomore Taylor Rochestie's career-high 16 points with Low tossing in 12 and senior Ivory Clark adding 10 but eight players in all broke through onto the scoring sheet and junior Kyle Weaver led the Cougars in rebounding with six boards.

The Huskies had won 15 of 16 at home this year and were energized in the opening minutes of play while the Cougars came out slow defensively, allowing Washington to score 11 points in the first four minutes of the game. But after that brief interlude of a defensive lapse, the Cougars' staunch defense re-surfaced and held the Huskies to only 50 points the rest of the way. Wazzu came back in the first half, gradually overcoming Washington's lead, then slowly building their own lead and finally ending with a 40-point offensive outburst to take a 40-32 lead into the locker room.

The Cougars held off the Huskies for the first five minutes of the second half but Washington steadily pulled closer as the Cougars began to get into foul trouble midway through the second half with Robbie Cowgill picking up his fourth foul and then a few minutes later, Daven Harmeling picking up his fourth of the half. Behind the post work of Hawes [who led the Huskies in scoring with 22 points] and Jon Brockman, Washington fought all the way back from eight points down to take a brief one-point lead at 58-57 on a Hawes lay up with 5:33 to go. That would be the only lead for the Huskies as Harmeling hit a baseline jumper and Low followed with a three pointer and Wazzu never trailed again.

Like their last four victories, the Cougars again won this game on the defensive side of the ball. Playing a man-to-man defense most of the second half the Cougars continued to dare the other Huskies to beat them. It proved to be a good move for the Cougars, as the Huskies were never able to get hot from the outside. Washington had three chances in the last minute to take the lead but just couldn't seem to find an open look.

With the victory, the Cougars keep pace with UCLA for the conference title, have likely clinched a berth in the Big Dance and - with the loss of three ranked teams ahead of them - will await the release of the next national rankings to see if they move up into single digits in the Top 10.



CougZone contributor Tracy Piippo contributed to this article.


The Cougars next take on Oregon on Thursday, February 22 at 8pm in Eugene.







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