SEATTLE (AP)—Even coach Tony Bennett, the architect of the resurgence at Washington State based around defense, was impressed by Washington’s ability to match styles.
Nevertheless, the Huskies couldn’t outdo the original, especially in the final minutes.
Aron Baynes scored 16 points, Kyle Weaver scored 11 of his 13 in the second half, and the No. 4 Cougars again used their defense to rally past Washington 56-52 on Saturday night in the Pac-10 opener for both teams.
“My hat goes off to Washington and how hard they played,” Bennett said.
Trailing 48-45, Washington State (13-0) scored 11 of the final 15 points, flustering the Huskies into challenged shots and taking advantage of the few open opportunities they found.
In the process, the Cougars extended their win streak over the Huskies (9-5) to six, the longest streak since winning six straight in 1941-42. And much like those games 66 years ago, this one was a physical, grind-it-out affair, with bodies flying all over the floor and every possession precious—just the way the Cougars like it.
“I don’t know if it was the most physical (game), but it was probably right up there,” Baynes said.
Tim Morris led Washington with 16 points and Jon Brockman added 14 points and 17 rebounds. Bu the Huskies saw their five-game win streak snapped and lost for the fourth time this season to a team ranked in the Top 25.
“We knew it was going to be a game like that—grind-out game,” Brockman said. “There were hardly any easy buckets.”
The Cougars’ decisive run started with 6:20 left, after Artem Wallace’s hustle on consecutive possessions helped give Washington the lead. Wallace went flying into the first row to save Ryan Appleby’s miss and Justin Dentmon hit a 3 to give the Huskies a 46-45 advantage. On their next possession, Wallace followed Brockman’s miss to give Washington a three-point lead.
Then the Cougars took control. Baynes’ dunking three-point play pulled Washington State even at 48-all. Derrick Low added a deep 3-pointer and Taylor Rochestie hit a runner from just outside the lane to give the Cougars a 53-48 lead with 3:04 left.
From there, it became a free-throw shooting contest with Weaver making 3 of 4 attempts in the final 30 seconds to seal the victory.
“Our defense really carried us late. Our guys made some big plays,” Bennett said. “These guys have played a few Pac-10 games and I think that experience helped.”
Washington had opportunities to tie or take the lead in the closing moments. Appleby had a 3-point attempt partially blocked, then saw his layup swatted into the first row by Baynes. Morris also missed in the lane with under 90 seconds left.
Brockman failed to pull Washington even when he missed a free throw with 28 seconds left. Weaver got the rebound and was instantly fouled, but split his two free throws, leaving the Cougars up 54-52 with 27.2 seconds remaining.
Washington immediately went to Brockman, but his spinning jumper in the lane was challenged by the 6-foot-10 Baynes and came up short. Weaver was fouled and hit two clinching free throws.
“We felt Jon could get around Baynes … but Baynes did a good job,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said.
Low finished with 11 points, and Daven Harmeling hit two key 3-pointers off the bench in the second half, after the Cougars went 0-for-8 from behind the arc in the first half.
“That’s how the Pac-10 Conference is going to be. Teams are going to be physical. Teams are going to beat you up,” Low said. “It’s not going to be easy. I think that’s how every game is going to be.”
Washington’s defense was most impressive in the first half, when it held the Cougars to just 26 percent shooting and 17 points.
The Huskies built their lead to five early in the second half, but the Cougars rallied behind Weaver, who scored eight points during a hard-fought 6-minute span. The swingman brought the Cougars even at 38-all on his three-point play with 10:29 left.
The teams went back-and-forth before the Cougars took their first lead since 8-6 on Low’s driving layup with 7:44 left, setting the stage for the final minutes.
Quincy Pondexter added eight points for Washington, but Appleby, the Huskies’ best outside shooter, made just two of eight shots and finished with six points.