PULLMAN, Wash. (AP)—After a poor defensive showing against Boise State this week, Washington State coach Tony Bennett challenged his team to establish an identity.
Friday night the Cougars did, as a balanced offense matched with a tenacious defense.
“We were challenged on defense and that’s what we came out to do,” said Aron Baynes, who had 12 points and eight rebounds to lead No. 9 Washington State to a 74-43 rout of Idaho.
Baynes was one of six Cougars to score in double figures in a physical game against a scrappy but outmanned Idaho team.
“When you have six guys in double figures, you really like that,” Bennett said. “I thought we took the right shots, for the most part. We came out in the second half and defended well and extended the lead.”
“We scored in a variety of ways, which I always like to see,” Bennett said.
Derrick Low, scoreless in the first half because of fouls, scored 12 points and Robbie Cowgill, Taylor Rochestie, Kyle Weaver and Daven Harmeling each had 10 for the Cougars (3-0), who jumped out to an 8-0 lead and never trailed.
WSU took a 36-24 lead at the half and hit 24 of 47 shots from the field in the game. Idaho shot 35.2 percent from the floor (19-for-54) and was successful on just 1 of 6 free-throw tries. WSU hit 23-of-27 free throws.
Jordan Brooks led Idaho (1-2) with 14 points and five rebounds.
WSU’s defense held the Vandals scoreless for the first 6 minutes and Idaho went scoreless for large chunks of the game.
The Vandals put together a 10-2 run midway through the second period, but Rochestie hit a pair of free throws to make it 58-38.
After Idaho climbed to 15-11 on Darin Nagle’s jam with about 9 minutes remaining in the first half, WSU went on an 11-0 run over the next 3 1/2 minutes.
Cowgill said the Cougars were embarrassed by their defensive play Tuesday in an 86-74 win at Boise State. “I felt the defense was there tonight,” he said.
“We wanted to establish the defense first and prove to ourselves we were a better defense than we showed at Boise,” Cowgill said.
The Cougars were the second Top 25 team Idaho played this week. The Vandals lost to No. 14 Gonzaga 80-43 on Tuesday.
“We saw two really good basketball teams,” Idaho coach George Pfeifer said. “We can find some positive glow with the fact that we need to get better.”
Brooks, who came to Idaho after playing on two junior college championship teams, said the Cougars appeared to be a bit better than Gonzaga.
“I think WSU is a little tighter. They know how to get their shots. They know who to get the ball to,” he said.
The Cougars have dominated the cross-border series in recent years, winning five straight and 10 of the last 11 meetings. Idaho last won 62-58 in the 2002-03. The Cougars lead the all-time series 156-107.
“Idaho, I’ll say this about them, they’re very scrappy and physical,” Bennett said.