The Washington State Cougars used their tenacious defense to improve on this young season to 2-0 Tuesday night in Pullman. Their opponent in the Legends Classic Tournament match up was the Knights of Fairleigh Dickinson.
Coach Tony Bennett's Cougs dominated from the opening tipoff, won by Aron Baynes. Final score was once again definitive Bennett Ball, 55-33.
Former WSU Coach Dick Bennett was on hand to see the Coug Babes up close and personal. He certainly was proud of the play by the Cougars.
There was a nice crowd of 6,159 in attendance. They were strong in their spirited support of the Cougs. Yes, even the fans need some non-conference games to fine tune their game!
The first half wasn't pretty for the WSU offense. Klay Thompson couldn't find the range, missing his first three attempts. Remember, three shots in a half is a lot for any player on a Bennett Ball team.
Since the Cougs were having trouble with their offense, Coach Tom Green had his team running a zone defense almost the entire first half. It was a smart call by Coach Green and helped his Knights keep the game within reach.
Despite playing stifling defense in the opening 20 minutes, halftime score was 26-15 in favor of Washington State.
Whatever Coach Bennett said during the intermission, it seemed to fire up WSU scoring.
Thompson had seven points in the first three minutes of the second half, finishing the game with nine.
Baynes and Nic Koprivica led the Cougs in scoring with 10 each.
Taylor Rochestie had another solid performance running the team on the floor. He dished out six assists, matching his output in the game Saturday night.
Washington State was so dominant on defense that the Knights didn't manage a run of 5 points until there was just eight minutes left in the game. At that point in the game, Coach Bennett called timeout to slow things down. It worked. The Cougs put together a 7-0 run of their own, running the margin out to 54-26. Game over.
With WSU up by 28 points, Coach Bennett sat Baynes, Rochestie and Daven Harmeling down to watch the kids play.
The final three minutes was a learning experience for DeAngelo Casto, Abe Lodwick, Marcus Capers and Charlie Enquist. They were outscored 7-1 by Coach Green's Knights.
If there is anything the Cougs need to work on coming out of this game, it's rebounding. They didn't follow up their domination of the boards Saturday night with another solid effort.
Fairleigh Dickinson used their size to full advantage. Also, the Knights were forced into so many bad shots, there were plenty of opportunities for rebounds. But where FD shined was grabbing the rock after all missed 3-point shots by the Cougs.
Enough with the criticism.
Washington State is 2-0 and has an 18 game non-conference game winning streak. The school record is 21 consecutive non-conference wins over two seasons.
It looks like that record is in danger.
Next up for the Cougs is an early evening game Friday night against Sacramento State.
Coach Bennett's Cougars are off to a terrific start. If they keep this up, the talk of a rebuilding year will be silenced.