SEATTLE (AP)—The 10th-ranked Washington State Cougars have earned their archrivals’ utmost respect.
“I think they’re better than number 10,” Washington’s Jon Brockman said after the Cougars beat the Huskies 65-61 on Wednesday night. “They’re a great ball club. They didn’t get flustered when we got the lead.”
“Washington State is a well oiled machine,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar added. “They capitalize on every mistake that you make.”
Taylor Rochestie scored a season-high 16 and Derrick Low hit two free throws with 16.7 seconds left to help the poised Cougars win a close game down the stretch.
Freshman center Spencer Hawes had 22 points and Brockman added 15 and 14 rebounds for the Huskies.
The Cougars (22-4, 11-3 Pac-10), who received their highest ranking in history in this week’s The Associated Press poll, won their fifth straight conference game this month after an overtime loss to Oregon.
The Huskies (16-9, 6-8) had won five of their previous six league games.
Picked to finish in last place in the Pac-10 preseason media poll after having a 4-14 record in the conference last season, Washington State’s confidence is now soaring.
“It’s definitely up there for this time of the year,” Kyle Weaver said.
Teammate Robbie Cowgill agreed.
“This is the type of game that we probably would have lost last year or the year before,” Cowgill said, referring to Washington State’s 12-16 record when he was a freshman and 11-17 when he was a sophomore.
Rochestie is blossoming in his first season with Washington State.
“I tried to take control of the situation,” he said.
Low put the Cougars ahead 62-58 with a 3-pointer with 3:58 to go, but Justin Dentmon of Washington sank a 3-pointer with 3:28 left. Low’s two free throws with 16.7 seconds left came after he was fouled by Adrian Oliver.
Cowgill added a free throw for the Cougars with 7.3 seconds to go.
Low added 12 points and Ivory Clark 10 for the defensive-minded Cougars, who came into the game ranked 10th nationally, yielding 57.6 points per game.
Washington State beat Washington for the fourth straight time over two seasons. The Cougars beat the Huskies 75-47 in Pullman on Jan. 20, but Washington played without the 7-foot Hawes, their leading scorer, in that game because he had a sprained ankle.
In the second half, Washington took the lead at 58-57 on a driving layup by Hawes with 5:33 to go before Daven Harmeling allowed the Cougars to retake the lead at 59-58 with a 15-foot baseline jumper with 5:13 left. Low then sank his second 3-pointer to put Washington State ahead 62-58.
The Cougars led 40-32 at halftime, holding the Huskies without a basket in the final 7:04 of the first half.
Washington State’s stingy defense limited Washington to seven free throws after Ryan Appleby’s third 3-pointer cut the Cougars’ lead to 26-25 with 7:04 to go in the opening half.
Clark had two of his three first-half dunks—and eight points—in the final 6:11 of the first half, when the Cougars went on a 14-5 run to go up by eight points at halftime. Clark’s dunk with 6:11 left came on a pass from Cowgill and gave Washington State a 28-27 lead.
Washington State, which has never won a Pac-10 regular-season title, is in second place in the conference standings with four games left. UCLA leads with a 10-2 record.
“This is big time,” first-year Cougars coach Tony Bennett said. “There is no question about that.”