Baffled, confused, puzzled. These would be accurate words to describe the state of Arizona tonight as the 17th-ranked Washington State University Cougars traveled down to Tucson and completed their first sweep of the season series in 24 years with a 72-66 win that moves them to 18-4 overall and into a second-place tie with Oregon at 7-3 in the Pac-10. The win will also improve Wazzu's RPI from 33 – where it stood at the beginning of the night.
The Cougars had only swept Arizona twice in the history of the series between the two teams – and both were many moons ago and both involved NCAA squads [the 1979-80 season and the 1982-83 season]. The third time was a charm for the Cougars as senior Ivory Clark tallied 18 points and led four of his Cougar mates in double figures with junior Derrick Low adding 13, junior Kyle Weaver tossing in 12 and sophomore Daven Harmeling filling in 12 more. Clark, who fouled out of the game, also led the Cougars in rebounding with seven boards.
Wazzu started slowly as Arizona chose to start freshman Jordan Hill instead of the hobbled Marcus Williams and the long-armed frosh helped the Wildcats jump to an early lead as he altered and blocked Cougar shot attempts in the paint. By the time Williams – who had scored 18 points in the first game, a Wildcats' loss in Pullman – came in nearly seven minutes into the game, Arizona had forged a seven-point lead. The Wildcats were leading 19-12 when Wazzu went on a 9-1 run to take the lead and ended the first half by out-scoring Arizona 24-14 for a 36-33 halftime lead.
Shooting 52% at the break, the Cougars continued to shoot well in the second half [finishing at 51% for the game] and opened the second half with a 12-7 streak that gave them their biggest lead of the game at 48-40 off a Clark dunk. From there, the Cougars staved off the Wildcats for five minutes but Arizona had one more run left in them and with WSU holding a 56-48 advantage, went on a 9-0 run to take the lead at 57-56 with 7:44 remaining in the game.
Then Wazzu took control of the game – reeling off eight straight points for a 64-57 lead with just over three minutes to play in the game. Arizona closed to within three at 66-63 but after Weaver drove the lane and took three Wildcat players with him, he dished to a wide open Harmeling who nailed the three-pointer that slammed the coffin lid shut on Arizona. Harmeling then added a few dirt clods on the coffin with a three-point play the old-fashioned way as he was fouled on a breakaway lay-in with 7.2 seconds left in the game and the clock ran out to secure the sweep.
With the victory, the Cougars will now be in a second-place tie with the loser of the Oregon-UCLA game.
The Cougars next take on Arizona State on Saturday, February 3 at 4:30pm in Tempe.
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