In a defensive battle, Washington State defeated visiting Arizona State in Pullman, WA, Thursday evening. The final score was 59-47, but the game was much, much closer than these numbers indicate.
Derrick Low led the Cougs' offensive effort and prevented ASU from taking a lead at any point in the game. That’s right. Low finished with 15 points, one of three Cougar starters in double figures.
WSU led the game end-to-end. But before Cougar fans exploded with an enthusiastic “All right!” holding the lead was still very important. The Sun Devils were not dominated. Not nearly.
So what was so close about this game? Four of the five starters for WSU played great basketball. Kyle Weaver was a little off his game, possibly slightly hobbled by ongoing shin problems. This shows each player executed his own game.
Fans of the Pac-10 have come to expect the sort of hard fought contest witnessed on the hardwood of Friel Court. Bodies were flying everywhere. Both teams hounded whoever might have the ball on offense. There were very few uncontested shots.
In the end, Arizona State was taken so completely out of their offensive flow in the second half that they were held to a minuscule 23 percent shooting from the floor. Oh my! That was the difference in the game.
Baynes was outstanding, playing some of his best basketball of the season. He frustrated Jeff Pendergraph, who could do very little near the basket. Aron jumped in to make four steals, one of which had him running the entire court for a slam dunk, sending the Zzu Cru into a wild frenzy.
Coach Tony Bennett was beaming once the final buzzer sounded. At the risk of redundancy, his team played like a team. There’s no question he was pleased to see his troops earn a victory over an outstanding basketball team.
Arizona State is good. Thursday night, the Cougs were marginally better.
Unlike the matchup of these two squads down in Tempe, there won’t be any second-guessing how the officials called, or didn’t call, the game. Trailing by two possessions with one minute left, all the Sun Devils could do was hoist three-point attempts. They were forced to shoot from well beyond NBA range, doinking the ball off the rim and into the well-positioned hands of WSU players.
The Cougs weren’t going to let ASU get a good look at the basket. They were all about defense.
Chances are these two teams will meet again in the Pac-10 tournament.
While ASU needs a win Saturday in Seattle against Washington, the Cougs will have their hands full with the Arizona Wildcats who will be fighting mad after losing a game to those same Huskies Thursday night.
Washington State moves to 9-5 in conference play, leaving them in third place behind UCLA and Stanford. The Cougs are 21-5 overall, showing they are deserving of their No. 17 ranking in the nation.