BERKELEY, Calif. (AP)—For a team known for its lock-down defense, No. 22 Washington State showed what it can do on the offensive end too.
Taylor Rochestie scored 18 points, Kyle Weaver added 17 and the normally defense-minded Cougars dominated on both ends of the court in a 70-49 victory over California on Thursday night.
Washington State (22-6, 10-6 Pac-10) shot 54 percent, going 8-for-17 on 3-pointers to win for the fifth time in six games with one of its best offensive performances this season. The Cougars made 14 of 21 shots in the second half and assisted on 17 of their 26 baskets.
“I don’t know how it worked but it felt good,” Weaver said. “We’ve had games where guys have had good games and shot the ball well but as a team everybody it seemed was knocking it down. We could have shot it from the stands tonight and it would have went in. It was one of those nights.”
Everything came easy for Washington State against the Golden Bears (15-11, 6-9). The Cougars even scored on a rare alley-oop pass from Rochestie to Robbie Cowgill to take a 64-46 lead with less than seven minutes to go.
“That’s a play we’ve been working on and as soon as I did it I said, ‘Happy Birthday, Rob,”’ Rochestie said. “It’s his birthday today. That just felt good to give him something like that, a dunk in front of his family on his birthday.”
The Cougars’ defense also shone as usual in a matchup between the conference’s highest-scoring and stingiest teams. Cal played from behind after missing seven of its first eight shots. The Bears never found their touch from long distance, missing 16 of 18 3-pointers.
“We really played their pace of game. They really controlled the tempo the whole way and kind of took us out of our game plan,” Cal’s Ryan Anderson said. “We’re normally a good shooting team. Everybody has their off nights. We struggled from the 3-point line, which is something that we don’t normally do.”
The Bears shot 37 percent overall and finished 28 points below their conference leading scoring average of 77.8 points per game. Cal’s previous low came in a 70-58 loss to UCLA.
Instead it was the Cougars who had the outside shot working. Derrick Low hit consecutive 3s midway through the second half to give Washington State a 53-38 lead. Rochestie added his fourth 3 a few minutes later and the Cougars coasted to the win.
“Sooner or later when you keep moving and don’t stand around you’ll find open looks,” Low said. “When I got them I took them and they went down. It looks real good when you make shots. I thought we made shots today and the offense looked good. Today was one of those days.”
Low finished with 15 points and Aron Baynes added 10 before fouling out for the Cougars, who remained in third place in the conference, a half-game ahead of Southern California.
Anderson scored 17 points to lead Cal, but shot only 5-for-15. The Cougars did an outstanding job shutting down the Bears’ second-leading scorer, Patrick Christopher, who had two points on 1-for-6 shooting on a sore hip that could keep him out of Saturday’s game against Washington. Anderson and Christopher combined for 43 points in Cal’s 69-64 win last month at Washington State.
“The defense is what won us the game because Cal is one of the best offensive teams in the league,” Low said. “To hold them to the amount of points we did tonight says something about how we played defense. We did a better job on the ball and kept more of an eye out on Anderson and limited his open looks on the 3s.”
By losing for the fourth time in five games, the Bears’ probably need to win the Pac-10 tournament next month to have any shot at making the NCAA tournament. Cal fell to 2-6 at home in conference play.
“We’re not out of any picture,” coach Ben Braun said. “We’re 6-9 and we’re close. We have to step back up and play this next game. It’s our most important game. We have to start a streak and get on a roll to play as hard as we can. That’s our charge right now, our challenge.”