Wazzu senior center Aron Baynes did not receive any Pac-10 recognition this week when the all-conference awards – as voted on by the conference coaches – were released this week. Not even an honorable mention. Baynes gave his rebuttal to that snub with a near-perfect game – 7-for-8 from the field and 6-for-6 from the line – by scoring 20 points [two shy of his season-high] as he led Wazzu to an easy 62-40 victory over the Oregon Ducks in a first round game at the Pac-10 conference tournament in Los Angeles. With the win, the Cougars improved to 17-14 overall – and almost certainly locked up, at the very least, an NIT berth. But they are still after a Big Dance invitation and will continue in pursuit of that with a second round game tomorrow against UCLA.
Baynes led three Cougars in double figures as fellow senior Caleb Forrest added 14 points and freshman DeAngelo Casto chipped in 10 points.
Wazzu began where they left off last time against Oregon, easing out to a 10-4 lead as "Big Daddy" Baynes scored six of the Cougars' first 10 points. When Casto wheeled at the free throw line, took it down the lane and rammed it home, it was 16-6 for Wazzu. The Cougars built the lead out to 22-9 and Rochestie had yet to score in the game. Oregon showed brief signs of life as sparkplug guard Tajuan Porter hit consecutive treys and helped fuel a 7-0 Duck run that brought them back to within six at 22-16.
But Rochestie, who was named as the Pac-10's Scholar-Athlete of the Year earlier in the day, hit his first points of the game with 6:34 left in the half and Wazzu responded with a 10-0 run to double up the Ducks at 32-16. After the Ducks a hit a pair of threes to end the half, the Cougars went into the locker room with a 34-22 lead.
After head coach Tony Bennett was clearly irate at allowing Porter to hit a half-ending three-ball, Wazzu went on a 10-3 scoring run to open the second half and put the game permanently out of reach. Oregon never seriously threatened the Cougars in the game again and it became a highlight reel show late in the second half as first Rochestie fed junior Nikola Koprivica on a behind-the-back pass for a layup on a fast break and then Forrest lobbed the ball to Casto for a fast break dunk for what would turn out to be the Cougars' final points of the game. Wazzu played the last two minutes of the game with an all-freshman lineup that consisted of Marcus Capers, Charlie Enquist, Michael Harthun, Abe Lodwick and Nick Witherill.
Baynes led the Cougars with eight rebounds while Rochestie led the team with six assists. It was Wazzu's sixth consecutive win against Oregon.
Wazzu's next game is against UCLA at 8:30pm on Thursday, March 12 at the Pac-10 conference tournament in Los Angeles.
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