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Cougs turn over another win

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Stats by StatSheet.com

 

The big question going into the Legends Classic was whether or not the Cougar freshmen could rise to the challenge of a major college opponent.
 
Klay Thompson did, and the WSU defense handled the rest.
 
Thompson had a career high 19 points and 10 rebounds as Washington State held off Mississippi State, 63-52.
 
That's not to understate the role played by Aron Baynes. Baynes was limited to 22 minutes because of foul trouble, and still managed to score 17 points while helping to limit Bulldog center Jarvis Varnado to 2 points, 5 rebounds and 4 blocks - all well below his season averages. Baynes went 8 for 10 from the floor.

The Cougars held on despite a late 11-0 run by MSU, after the Cougars took a 52-35 lead with 10:47 remaining. WSU was held scoreless for 5:20 during that run. Credit the defense for closing out the game for WSU. They held Mississippi State to only six points in the final 5:27, and forced 20 Bulldog turnovers. MSU only shot 33.3% for the game.
 
Taylor's off night: Can the Cougars win when Taylor Rochestie isn't firing? Guess so. Rochestie, in front of his friends and family making the trip to New Jersey, was an abysmal 2 for 14 shooting the ball. He still managed 8 points by getting to the free throw line, and added a game-high five assists. Rochestie was the team leader in effective field goal percentage (field goal percentage, weighted for three-pointers) prior to the game, with a 66.1% mark. WSU has to feel good about a double-digit win without an impact night from their best player.
 
Advanced Stat Watch: With so many turnovers and 33.3% shooting for MSU, why wasn't the game a blowout? MSU got hot shooting the three in the first half - making five of eight in the first half before connecting on only one of six in the second. The Bulldogs finished with a respectable 39.1% effective field goal percentage (eFG), which helped offset the turnovers on a nightmarish 29% of their possessions. MSU also got to the line with a 50% free-throw rate compared to 26% for Wazzu. WSU also helped the Dogs stay in it by clanking 11 of 13 three-point attempts. The Cougs still finished with a 44.8 eFG%, meaning they got their work done inside the arc. In fact, the Cougars made 73% (!) of their shots inside the arc. That - and the turnovers - are your ball game, folks. Credit Baynes and Thompson.
 
Who made the rotation? Tony used an eight-man rotation in the first close game of the season. The usual starters (Taylor, Klay, Nik, Daven and Aron) plus Marcus Capers, DeAngelo Casto and Caleb Forrest off the bench. WIth a closer game at hand, Tony relied more on the starters tonight while putting a lot of faith in the freshmen Casto and Capers. The bench players showed good shot selection (4 for 9) and helped keep Varnado in check while Baynes sat with foul trouble. While tonight's squad did well, don't be shocked if Tony reaches a little deeper into his bench as the season progresses.
 
Next up: #4 Pittsburgh, who defeated Texas Tech tonight by a score of 80-67. I don't know if the Cougars wanted a challenge, but they're going to get one.
 
CougCenter Player of the Game: Ah, what the heck. I'll make it a tie. Klay Thompson, with his first career double-double and 19 points to lead all scorers. His 10 rebounds were critical with Baynes on the bench. And Aron Baynes, who was simply dominant when he wasn't sitting down, making 80% of his shots and keeping Varnado in check throughout. I said the Baynes/Varnado matchup would be a key to this game, and Baynes emerged victorious.
 
CougCenter Play of the Game: Aron Baynes dunks the ball off a Koprivica assist to make it 59-50, WSU. With 2:12 left this was the dagger that ensured the Cougars would not surrender the lead, at once as high as 17 points.