Coming off a win that will probably have more long-term benefits than immediate dividends, No. 9 Washington State tries to continue improving Saturday when it plays Mississippi Valley State in the second round of the Cougar Hispanic College Fund Challenge at Spokane, Wash.
The Cougars (4-0) grinded out a 66-55 victory on Friday over Montana, a NCAA tournament-tested team that is the favorite to win the Big Sky Conference.
Taylor Rochestie scored 17 points while Derrick Low and Aron Baynes each added 14 for Washington State, which played to its strengths of pounding the ball down low - making 12 of 15 free throws in the second half - and while committing just seven turnovers.
“I had a feeling it would be a real good test,” said Washington State coach Tony Bennett, whose team made only two miscues the final 20 minutes.
Low is averaging a team-high 16.5 points and has made 45.8 percent of his 3-pointers (11-of-24). In addition to his steady shooting, the Cougars are again playing strong defense, limiting opponents to 53.3 points per game and 39.2 percent shooting overall.
Washington State improved to 11-0 in November games under Bennett, now in his second year, and should have far less difficulty keeping that perfect record against Mississippi Valley State (0-5), which has failed to score more than 63 points in any of its games and lost three of them by at least 30.
The Delta Devils got their first taste of a deliberate half-court offense in a 58-40 loss to Air Force on Friday in Spokane. Carl Lucas scored 18 as Mississippi Valley State shot only 24.5 percent (12-for-49) from the field.
Lucas leads the team in scoring at 13.0 points per game, but the Delta Devils are struggling in both facets of the game. They are shooting a woeful 33.1 percent from the field and averaging 50.0 points, and opponents are making 51.8 percent of their shots and scoring 74.8 points per game.
Mississippi Valley State is also being outrebounded by nearly 15 per game.
The four-team tournament concludes Sunday when the Delta Devils play Montana, while the Cougars will pair off with Air Force.