A big week for the 4th-ranked Wazzu men's hoop team began in a big way as the Cougars – led in scoring by redshirt junior forward Daven Harmeling with 19 points and Aron Baynes with 18 points - methodically dismantled the USC Trojans for a 73-58 win in Los Angeles to improve to 14-0 overall and 2-0 in Pac-10 play. The 14 wins is the Cougars' best start since the 1916-17 season and sets up a monumental clash for Pac-10 supremacy with UCLA on Saturday.
But before the Cougars could think ahead to the match-up with the Bruins, they had to get by USC and their freshman phenom O.J. Mayo. Mayo, coming into the game averaging 20 points per game, was able to slightly surpass his average with 22 points, but USC could not get much scoring out of anybody else with the exception of center Taj Gibson and Dwight Lewis with 16 apiece – those three accounting for all but four of the Trojans' points. That lack of production from other sources was apparent from the beginning as the Cougars missed five of their first six shots in the game but were still able to forge a 6-6 tie going into the initial media timeout.
From there, Wazzu began to find their rhythm and gradually worked their way to an 18-12 advantage about three-fourths of the way in the half. The Trojans then went on a 9-0 run to take a 21-18 lead and Cougar head coach Tony Bennett called a timeout. Coming out of the timeout, Harmeling stroked three consecutive treys and the Cougars took a 27-23 lead into the break.
"Big Daddy" Baynes had many close-in first-half opportunities but struggled to find the handle on the ball and missed a few easy dunks. That all changed in the second half as Baynes, with WSU running plays to open up the paint for him, scored the Cougars' first five points of the half and senior guard Derrick Low came alive and Wazzu pulled out to their first double-digit lead at 45-33 about eight minutes into the half. The two teams mostly traded buckets for the next 10 minutes and USC could never get closer than eight points. Redshirt junior guard Taylor Rochestie tossed in 12 points while Low finished with 10 and Baynes collected eight boards to lead the Cougars in that category.
With the win, the Cougars have now won three of the last four against USC and move their Pac-10 road record to 8-3 under Bennett.
The Cougars will next play UCLA at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, January 12 at Pauley Pavilion in Westwood.
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