Washington State played another solid game Friday night on Friel Court in Pullman, WA. They downed the Sacramento State Hornets 76-55, moving their record to a perfect 3-0.
During practice this week, Coach Tony Bennett impressed on his players they need to play with the same intensity on offense that they have on defense. That's right. His Cougs need to get tough on offense, "...cutting hard and moving hard."
WSU dominated the offensive end of the court, but it wasn't because of points in the paint.
For the the third time in three games, Aron Baynes won the opening tap for the Cougs and went on to convert the first bucket.
WSU got off to a nice 7-0 run to begin the game, forcing two shot clock violations by the Hornets over their first four possessions.
Then the crowd of 8,504 on hand got nervous.
Not only did the Hornets finally catch the Cougars with a free throw to make the score 12-12, they went on to take the lead 16-14. That marked the first time on this young season that Coach Bennett's squad trailed at any point in a game.
Freshman Klay Thompson had an outstanding game. He bumped up his season high with four three-pointers in the first 15 minutes of play. Thompson finished with 17 points on the evening.
The smothering defense of WSU had Sacramento State pretty frustrated with just a few minutes left in the first half. That resulted in three late turnovers and a couple of silly fouls.
At halftime Washington State had the game well in control, leading 41-28.
One area the Cougs hoped to improve in was rebounding. They were out-rebounded last time out and repeated that weak effort again in the first half grabbing only 10 boards while the Hornets hauled in 17.
Both teams came out strong to begin the second half, exchanging baskets for the first eight minutes. At that point, the sharp passing and aggressive play by the Cougs took it's toll. The Hornets never made another run.
Taylor Rochestie earned his first double-double as a Coug. He led WSU in scoring with 18 points, all three-pointers. Along the way, Rochestie dished out 10 assists, playing with the poise and savvy you'd expect of a senior leader.
Before the game, Coach Bennett talked about the possibility of putting true freshman Mike Harthun in the game which would end speculation over red shirting him. Bennett quoted Harthun as saying, "...(he'd) do whatever will help the team." For some kids that's just a line borrowed from someone else. In the case of Harthun, it's heartfelt.
With 4:43 left in the game, Harthun relieved Rochestie at the point guard position. A couple of minutes later he canned a jumper just inside the three-point line for his first points as a Coug.
Nice way to start the season for Coach Bennett and the Cougs. WSU only had six turnovers for the game while forcing the Hornets into committing 18. A stat differential like that almost always earns you a win.
Uncharacteristic of a Coach Bennett team, the Cougs put up 29 shots from long range, converting 16 of them. Yes, they were on fire from downtown.
Though Washington State basketball resembled the football team in giving up 55 points tonight, they are looking very good early on this young season. Very good.
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