No. 13 Washington St. 88, Southern Cal 86, 2OT
PULLMAN, Wash (AP)—The Washington State Cougars put a fittingly fantastic finish on their best regular season in more than 60 years.
Aron Baynes scored a career-high 25 points and No. 13 Washington State edged No. 23 Southern California 88-86 in two overtimes to wrap up second place in the Pac-10 and the second seed in next week’s conference tournament.
The emotional matchup in front of a sellout crowd dropped Southern Cal into third place.
“We were playing for sole possession of second place,” said first-year WSU coach Tony Bennett, who got into a shouting match in overtime with Southern Cal coach Tim Floyd. “That means something to this program.”
“It helps us with seeding, and going into the tournament seeding can help you,” WSU guard Taylor Rochestie said. “Coach challenged us with that, and we responded to it.”
Washington State (24-6, 13-5) has never won a Pac-10 title and the 1982-83 team was the only other to finish second. The last WSU team to win at least 24 games was in 1940-41, when the team won a school-record 26 games.
The game featured a couple of unlikely heroes for Washington State in Baynes and Rochestie, whose shooting kept the Cougars ahead in the overtimes.
Baynes, a sophomore center who’s been dogged by injuries and averaging less than four points per game, went 10-for-10 from the field, nearly all from inside.
“They got me easy shots and I was there to finish them,” Baynes said. “I go out there with the mentality of rebound and play defense. I don’t see myself as one of the team’s scorers.”
Rochestie, a reserve who averages three points, scored 10 in 33 minutes of regulation. But he scored nine of WSU’s 18 points in the second overtime, including all six of his free throw attempts, to keep the Trojans (21-10, 11-7) at bay. He finished with 21 points.
Rochestie came in shooting 62 percent from the line.
“Coach has been getting on us all year on free throws,” Rochestie said. “In the Pac-10, games often come down to one or two points.”
USC leading scorer Nick Young fouled out late in regulation. Young had 19 points. Gabe Pruitt picked up the slack, scoring 11 of his 19 points in overtime.
“It was hard because he was one of our primary scorers,” USC’s Lodrick Stewart, who finished with 22 points, said of Young.
Stewart called it “the funnest game” of his college career.
“It was unfortunate we lost,” Stewart said. “Everyone on our team was so fired up.”
Also fired up were Bennett and Floyd, who got into an argument in front of the scorer’s table during a play in which the Trojans scored on a goaltending call to cut WSU’s lead to 79-78.
Game officials and staff members kept the coaches apart, and afterward both downplayed the issue.
“I never talk about those things,” Floyd said. “He’s a good coach.”
“It was the heat of the moment,” Bennett said. “I apologized to Coach Floyd.”
Rochestie noted that Bennett is known for being calm and collected on the bench.
“It was good to see he was fired up too,” Rochestie said.
Kyle Weaver had 15 points and 13 rebounds for Washington State, while Derrick Low added 14. The 88 points were a season high for the Cougars, who rebounded from a Thursday loss against No. 2 UCLA.
The Trojans lost consecutive games for the first time this season.
Low scored on a jumper for an 81-78 lead with just under a minute left in the second OT. After Stewart missed, Rochestie made a pair of free throws to increase the lead to five with 28 seconds to play.
USC wasn’t done yet. Pruitt’s long 3-pointer cut WSU’s lead to 87-86 with just over a second left. But Baynes was fouled on the inbounds play and made one of two free throws. USC’s final attempt was well short.
The Trojans had a chance to win at the end of the first overtime. Washington State led 70-68 when Stewart was fouled by Weaver on a 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left. Stewart made the first free throw, missed the second, and, after a WSU timeout, tied it at 70 with the third.
Weaver said the referee said he hit Stewart’s arm on the shot.
“That was a bad foul on my part,” Weaver said. “We caught a break and he missed one.”
Washington State made 25-of-31 free throws in the game, but Robbie Cowgill and Baynes each missed one of two in the final 33 seconds of regulation. That allowed Stewart to send the game into overtime with a long 3-pointer that tied it at 64 with 5 seconds left.
“I kept saying this is good for us as players,” Bennett said. “This is preparing us for the tournament.”