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January 20, 2008

Low Shoots Down Lucky Ducks

Luck finally ran out for the Oregon Ducks. Earlier in the week, in explaining his undefeated record against Bennett-coached Wazzu teams, Oregon head men's hoop coach Ernie Kent had said that his Ducks had been "lucky" to win many of those games. But both Kent's and the Ducks' luck could not withstand a 18-point second half barrage from senior Cougar guard Derrick Low as he willed the 8th-ranked Washington State University Cougars' men's hoop team to a come-from-behind 69-60 win at Beasley Coliseum. The win improves the Cougars to 16-1 overall and puts them in a three-way tie [with UCLA and Arizona State] for first place in the Pac-10 at 4-1.


The Ducks had beaten the Cougars 13 consecutive times and it began to look like Oregon was working on #14 as the Cougars were again sluggish coming out of the gate, allowing Oregon to roll up a big, early lead which ballooned out to 11 points at one point in the first half at 24-13. Oregon was, once again, using their overall quickness to carve out open looks at three-pointers and were hitting their shots from beyond the arc in building the early lead. A spirited 9-0 run by Wazzu late in the first half brought the game back into range for the Cougars - although Oregon was able to fend off WSU for a 34-30 lead at the break.

Wazzu scored on five of their first seven possessions to open up the second half and took their first lead at 42-41, with 14:59 left in the game. From there, it was the classic nip-and-tuck affair that has characterized the last five Oregon-WSU men's hoop games in Pullman. The Ducks rebuilt part of their earlier lead, bringing it out to 52-46 with 8:34 left in the game - but that was as much distance as they could put on the Cougars. Low and fellow senior guard Kyle Weaver hit crucial shots down the stretch that gradually brought the Cougars into a 57-57 tie with 2:38 remaining. Weaver put Wazzu ahead for good with a layup at 60-59 with 1:03 left in the game. When Oregon senior forward Malik Hairston, fouled out with 42 seconds left to play, Low along with redshirt junior guard Taylor Rochestie hit six straight free throws to give the Cougars a cushion of comfort. Junior forward Robbie Cowgill hit a three-point play for the final margin of victory that Weaver preserved with a game-ending block of a Tajuan Porter shot.

Weaver added 16 points for the Cougars and was the team's leading rebounder with seven boards, while junior center Aron Baynes chipped in 11 points to the winning effort.

With the win, the Cougars are now 9-2 at home in Pac-10 games under head coach Tony Bennett.


The Cougars will next play Arizona at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 24 in Tucson.





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