The Washington State University Cougar men's hoop team built up a seemingly insurmountable 20-point second half lead and appeared to be on their way to yet another blowout win when the 15th-ranked Baylor Bears woke up from their hibernation and came all the way back to take as much as a three-point lead before Wazzu re-claimed the lead and defeated the Bears, 77-71 in the semifinals of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu. With the victory, Wazzu improves to 10-1 overall and will await the winner of the Butler-Florida State game in the final on Saturday on ESPN2.
Wazzu once again jumped out to their customary early lead, 19-11, after junior guard Klay Thompson hit a three-ball with 13:02 remaining in the half. The Cougars kept padding the lead throughout much of the first half as an 8-0 run produced their largest first half lead at 35-19 with 5:36 remaining. Baylor finally responded with a mini run to cut the lead back to single digits at 35-26 but junior forward DeAngelo Casto threw down a dunk and hit the last shot of the half to give the Cougars a 39-26 lead going into the locker room.
Wazzu appeared to be on the verge of blowing Baylor out of the gym as the Cougars opened the second half with a 16-9 run that gave them a 55-35 lead - their largest lead of the game - with 14:46 remaining. But the Bears finally awoke from their scoring slumber and coupled with Thompson sitting on the bench after having picked up his fourth foul at the 13:06 mark and an aggressive man-to-man defense, came all the way back to take a 64-61 lead. But that is as far as Wazzu would let the Bears go. Thompson re-entered the game and immediately put the Cougars ahead with a long range trey that gave Wazzu a 66-64 lead which sophomore point guard Reggie Moore stretched to four points with a driving lay-in. After the Bears responded with a three-pointer to cut the lead to one, Thompson nailed a three-ball from near 30 feet out to give the Cougars a 71-67 lead with 1:08 left and essentially seal the victory. Thompson, junior guard Faisal Aden and Casto all hit free throws in the last half minute for the final margin in the game.
Wazzu had balanced scoring as five Cougars were in double digits, led by Thompson with 20 points and followed by Aden with 13 points, Casto with 12, Moore with 12 and sophomore Brock Motum with 12. Junior Abe Lodwick led the Cougars with eight rebounds.
- Thompson and Aden combined to score 33 of Wazzu's 77 points in the game.
Washington State University next plays the winner of the Butler/Florida State game in the final of the Diamond Head Classic at 6:30PM on Saturday, December 25, in Hawai'i
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