Cougars bury Wildcats with big second half

 

The last time they met in Tucson, it was Washington State surrendering a big lead and getting blown away in the second half by Arizona.

Back at home in Pullman, the Cougars decided to return the favor.

The Cougars (15-13, 7-9 Pac-10) used two runs - a 10-3 one to finish the first half, and a 14-3 to open the second, to put away Arizona (18-10, 8-7), 69-53.

It was a team effort for WSU, with four players scoring in double figures. Taylor Rochestie scored 17, Klay Thompson 16, Caleb Forrest 15, and DeAngelo Casto with 11.

Arizona started the game in impressive fashion, jumping out to a 26-16 lead. They were led by Nic Wise's 15 first half points. Wise was limited in the second half, however, under the defensive pressure of Cougar freshman Marcus Capers. Wise led the Wildcats with 19, but had only 4 points after the intermission. Jordan Hill added 15, and Chase Budinger was limited to 9 for Arizona.

Klay Thompson drained a three with time expiring in the first half to bring the Cougars within three, down 29-26. WSU carried that momentum into the second half and never looked back. Despite occasional signs of live from the Wildcats, the Cougars ran U of A off the floor with a 43-24 second half performance.

The Cougars were ignited by two forwards off the bench. Caleb Forrest, with a perfect nine-for-nine night from the free throw line, and DeAngelo Casto, with a 5 of 6 shooting night and 5 assists.

Player of the Game: This was tough, but I have to give it to DeAngelo Casto. It was a great performance on both ends. Offensively, he missed only one attempt and scored 11 points. He also dished out five (!) assists, tying Taylor Rochestie and only one shy of the game high set by Marcus Capers (6). Casto didn't turn the ball over once and had four rebounds.

Defensively, Casto hung in there against a potential NBA lottery pick in Jordan Hill, and complemented Baynes in the low post.

Unsung Hero: Marcus Capers and Caleb Forrest (tie). Capers didn't score, but threw out six assists and had an exceptional defensive performance against Nic Wise. Forrest was Forrest, with gutsy plays in the lane and 15 huge offensive points. His trips to the line didn't hurt, either.

Play of the Game: For a split second, it looked like Taylor Rochestie had thrown up a runner that was going to miss badly. That was before Aron Baynes caught it for an alley-oop jam that brought the crowd to its feet.

It was over when... Baynes finished the alley-oop.

Stat of the Game: The Cougars as a team had 22 assists on 25 field goals.

The Cougars also notched a 31% offensive rebound percentage, which is incredible against a team with the athletes Arizona has. Of course, when you're playing any zone, you'll have an opportunity on the offensive glass, and the Cougars took full advantage of it.

Just an incredible effort all around, and a huge win for WSU against an Arizona team that was just hitting its stride. You could basically feel the crowd willing the Cougs to a win - a welcome change from the 5 home conference losses the Cougars had posted so far this season.

Equally important was all the hard work in practice finally paying off against the press. The Cougars beat the fullcourt trap, got the ball consistently to the high post, and turned the ball over enough on the defensive end to make up for the 14 turnovers of their own. And WSU was agressive enough to score easy buckets when the press led to a Wildcat defensive breakdown.

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