In the semi-final game of the Legends Classic, Washington State took on the Bulldogs of Mississippi State. It was the first time the two schools had met. The Cougs prevailed 63-52.
The game tempo was dictated by the Cougs, who made the Bulldogs work for every shot and limited their run-and-gun offense. WSU defense held MSU to their lowest offensive showing of the season.
On paper, this game should have been dominated inside by the defensive player of the year last season, Jarvis Varnado. He is off to another great start this season, averaging over seven blocks a game for the first five MSU victories. That isn't the way things went.
Washington State scored more than half of their points in the paint, outscoring the Bulldogs 34-12 inside. That's right.
Freshman Klay Thompson picked up the slack created after a terrible game by senior Taylor Rochestie. Thompson earned his first double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Rochestie was a shocking 2-13 from the field. However, Taylor was a steadying force at the end of the game when the Cougs needed him most.
The first half saw both teams make scoring runs. WSU went up 12-4 to start the game, but the Bulldogs roared back to tie it at a dozen each. The Cougs closed the half with a nice six point run for a 35-26 margin.
Staying true to form, Washington State came out strong to begin the second half. They built up a 17 point lead before losing composure and letting a very talented MSU team get their feet underneath them.
Mississippi State worked their way back into the game with just a couple of minutes to go, closing the gap to 56-50.
That was it.
WSU went back to playing solid Bennett Ball and allowed the Bulldogs just a couple of free throws the rest of the way.
There was almost a major upset during this game. Midway through the second half, a technical foul appeared to be called on Coach Bennett. That would have been the first of his career. The technical was clarified later to be on the Cougar bench, not on their head coach. The streak continues.
Senior Aron Baynes got the ball rolling for Washington State scoring 13 of the Cougs first 17 points. He finished with 17.
A bright spot for Coach Bennett was the nice play off the bench by freshman DeAngelo Casto. Though Casto only scored four points, he was a major thorn in the side of the Bulldogs.
So tomorrow will be a double header for Cougar Nation. Coach Bennett's round ballers will play in the Legends Classic final game at 5pm. Coach Paul Wulff will lead the Cougar football team against Hawaii three hours later in Honolulu.
It would be very nice to rack up a couple of wins tomorrow, wouldn't it WSU fans?