The Washington State University men's hoop team fought tooth and nail with the host Louisiana State University Tigers for 38 minutes, but it was the final two minutes of the game that ultimately determined the outcome as the Tigers used a game-ending 10-0 run in those two minutes to finish off WSU by the final score of 64-52 in Baton Rouge. The loss dropped the Cougars to 8-4 overall on the year as they prepare to enter Pac-10 play next week.
Senior guard Taylor Rochestie led a trio of Cougars in double digits with 14 points, followed by freshman Klay Thompson with 12 and senior forward Caleb Forrest with 10.
The teams opened up the game feeling each other out in the first few minutes as Wazzu held the Tigers scoreless for the first four minutes of the game. LSU, coached by former Stanford head coach Trent Johnson, was only able to hit one field goal in the first eight minutes of the game but Wazzu was not much better and only held a 4-3 lead at the 11:58 mark of the half before both teams began scoring consistently on their possessions. Five different players scored for the Cougars in the game's opening minutes and it was not until Wazzu opened up a three-point lead when Rochestie hit a lane driver to put the Cougars up 13-10 that a player had scored twice.
In an effort to control LSU's athleticism and rebounding advantage [the Tigers are the nation's leading rebounding team] the Cougars were dropping four players back after a missed shot on most offensive possessions. That held the Tigers at bay for awhile but a 5-0 Tiger run brought LSU back into the lead and the Tigers held on to the skimpy margin all the way into the half at 25-23.
The Tigers picked up where they left off in the first half and built a six-point lead at 33-27 but Wazzu quickly erased that lead and embarked on a 14-2 run to take a 41-35 lead after a trey by Rochestie. Wazzu would take their largest lead at 47-40 after Thompson hit four consecutive free throws in two Cougar possessions. But after the two teams traded baskets, LSU came back with a 7-0 run that gave them the lead for good, 51-49, with 5:14 left in the game. Senior center Aron Baynes scored the next three Cougar points to keep Wazzu close but it was his crucial miscue that became the turning point. Clinging to a 54-52 lead with 2:08 remaining LSU missed the second of two free throws and a Tiger player appeared to come over the back of "Big Daddy" Baynes and knock the ball free from his grasp. The referee did not make the call and Baynes, in attempting to corral the rebound, mishandled the ball and dropped it out of bounds. That allowed the Tigers to grab momentum and they promptly unleashed a 10-0 run that effectively ended the game.
Rochestie led the team with nine rebounds and two assists. The Cougars out-rebounded LSU, 35-32, for the game.
Wazzu's next game is against rival Washington at 3 pm on Saturday, January 3 at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman.
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