SEATTLE (AP)—The last time Washington State coach Dick Bennett was at Washington, he made an obscene gesture to the Huskies’ student section.
Saturday night, he and his Cougars made history.
Josh Akognon made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 16 seconds remaining and then supplied the clinching free throws as Washington State beat No. 10 Washington 78-71 for its first win ever over a Top 10 team on the road.
Before Akognon’s career-high 27 points and Kyle Weaver’s own career high of 19, the Cougars were 0-52 on the road against Top 10 teams. The Associated Press poll began on Jan. 20, 1949.
Washington State (9-3, 2-1 Pac-10) was playing its first game without point guard Derrick Low. The only Cougar averaging double figures in scoring broke his foot in practice last week.
No matter. Akognon was 6-for-10 on 3-point shooting. And Weaver was, in Bennett’s words “pretty special.” They led WSU back from a 13-point deficit in the second half and to its first win at its cross-state rival since 1994.
“I said to my players, the thing about trying to establish a program, if it is going to deteriorate with the loss of one player as important as (Low) is, it is not much of a program,” Bennett said.
Bennett began his redemptive night by tipping an imaginary cap to the Huskies’ student section he had infamously saluted last season. The students were standing within 10 feet of him and rhythmically chanting “Mind your manners!”
Brandon Roy scored 27 points for Washington (12-2, 1-2), which lost its second straight Pac-10 game at Hec Edmundson Pavilion after having the nation’s longest home winning snapped last weekend by Arizona.
But Roy missed seven minutes of the second half after getting his fourth foul. Washington led 43-42 when he left. It trailed 59-52 when Roy returned.
Justin Dentmon, with 12, was the only other Husky in double figures.
“They were a tougher—mentally tougher—team than we were,” said Washington coach Lorenzo Romar. He was left substituting little-used players in search of intensity and effort—and points, to match Roy’s lost offense.
Roy also endured foul trouble before eventually fouling out in the second overtime of the loss to Arizona, in which he scored a career high-tying 35 points.
“It’s no secret. I think my team needs me to be on the floor, more for confidence than anything else,” Roy said. “It’s frustrating to be on the bench with four fouls and not being able to do anything about it. It’s eating me up inside.”
So is what Roy perceives to be the Huskies’ attitude of entitlement. Washington, unranked to begin the season, was 11-0, ranked eighth and off to its best start since 1975 before these consecutive conference defeats.
“We’re finally getting respect for the first time, but now we’re not earning it,” Roy said.
“I would like them to take us out of the rankings completely so we can prove (ourselves), more than anything.”
The Cougars scored the first six points of the second half to take their first lead of the game. And when Akognon watched his 3-pointer bounce twice and then go in with 4:26 to go, the Cougars’ lead was 69-57.
Roy’s answered with his first field goal of the second half, a 3-pointer with 4:14 left. He then scored four more points to get Washington back to within 65-60 at the 3:02 mark. And he eventually tied the seesaw game at 71 with two free throws and 55.9 seconds remaining.
“It was pretty incredible how they did that,” Bennett said of Washington’s furious comeback. “It’s something we would have never been able to do.”
But then came Akognon’s finish. After it, Bennett granted himself a small smile and short pumps of both fists.
When asked if this was the biggest victory of his three-season reclamation project at Washington State, the former Final Four coach at Wisconsin said: “No, actually in terms of playing well from start to finish, I would say probably our win at Arizona last year.
“But this one was the guttiest one, given the circumstances.”