As the old saying goes – two out of three ain't bad – but for the 4th-ranked Wazzu men's hoop team, they might have preferred that this game was not the one that got away. WSU could not hit the side of a barn in the first half and dug themselves such a deep hole that even a 52-point second half could not extricate them as the 5th-ranked UCLA Bruins won Round One of the Pac-10 championship battle with an 81-74 win in Westwood. The Cougars were led by 24 points from senior guard Derrick Low. The loss breaks the Cougars' 14-game season-opening winning streak and drops them to 14-1 overall and 2-1 in Pac-10 play.
Coming off a little more than 36 hours rest from their victory over USC on Thursday, the Cougars were sluggish from the opening tip, committing four turnovers in their first seven scoreless possessions, thanks, in part, to an inspired Bruin defense. To make matters worse, both Low and junior center Aron Baynes were on the bench with foul trouble when the first media timeout came at nearly five minutes into the game. Both Baynes and Low were able to return for significant minutes in the half but neither them nor many of the Cougars were able to score against the harassing Bruin defense – giving the Cougars a taste of their own medicine. Redshirt junior guard Taylor Rochestie hit Wazzu's first field goal nearly eight minutes into the first half and by the time the Cougars were finally able to score on consecutive possessions, they were already down by 18 points. Rochestie ended the half with a trey that kept the Cougars within shouting distance at 35-22 – with 12 of their points coming off nine Cougar turnovers.
The second half began where the first half ended as the Bruins bolted out to an 18-point lead as WSU had two points and a turnover in the first four and a half minutes. It stayed a double-digit Bruin lead until Low hit a trey with 5:14 left in the game to cut the margin down to eight at 57-49. But the Bruins expanded it back to 15 to 68-53 with 1:48 left. The Cougars then entered the shoot-and-foul stage of the game and Low, Rochestie and redshirt junior forward Daven Harmeling hit three-pointers on seven consecutive possessions. Wazzu outscored UCLA 21-9 in 1:32 to close the gap to a mere three points at 77-74, with 16 seconds left in the game. But the Bruins were able to hit their free throws and the Cougars could not score again as Low missed his final attempt from beyond the arc.
The much anticipated match-up between Bruin freshman big man Kevin Love and "Big Daddy" Baynes was a blowout win for Love as the talented frosh had a double-double with 27 points and 14 rebounds while Baynes was only able to muster eight points and seven boards.
With the loss, the Cougars are now 1-50 all-time against UCLA in Los Angeles.
The Cougars will next play Oregon State at 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 17 at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman.
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