Everybody knew the game was going to be a battle – and neither the 4th-ranked Wazzu men's hoop team nor their opponent, the rival Washington Huskies, disappointed. WSU and UW began battling from the opening tip, but it was the Cougars, led by 16 points from junior center Aron Baynes who made the Huskies their 13th victim of the year with a 56-52 win over Washington in Seattle in the Apple Cup of men's hoop. It was the sixth consecutive win for the Cougars over the Huskies.
It was a defensive struggle in the first half as neither team shot well – WSU just over 26% - and neither was able to crack double digits until over 12 minutes of the half had elapsed. "Big Daddy" Baynes led the Cougars in scoring in the first half with nine points – highlighted by a thunderous dunk heard Down Under directly over Husky power forward Jon Brockman. But while Baynes was mostly having his way offensively, some of the other Cougars were having trouble finding the hoop. Senior guards Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver shot a combined 3-for-12 in the first half [although Weaver did have another highlight play with a steal and dunk to give the Cougars their first lead of the game]. Redshirt junior forward Daven Harmeling – still recovering from a thumb injury - made a surprise appearance off the bench and got considerable minutes in the first half, even tossing up a three-pointer. Like the Cougars with their nation-leading defense, the Huskies were particularly active on defense, but unlike the Cougars, Washington was able to connect on a three-pointer [despite getting open looks, WSU went 0-for-8 beyond the arc in the first half] – and that was the difference as Washington led 20-17 at the break.
The second half provided a few more offensive fireworks as Baynes picked up where he left off, scoring the Cougars' first four points of the half, then Harmeling hit two crucial treys to answer Husky three-balls while both Weaver and Low came alive just as the Cougars withstood a spurt of creative Pac-10 officiating that eventually put Baynes on the bench with four fouls. Wazzu finally took the lead for good when Low nailed a three-pointer for a 51-48 advantage. Redshirt junior guard Taylor Rochestie hit a runner to give Wazzu a 53-48 lead. Washington battled back to within a point at 53-52, but like giant irritated by a pesky gnat, "Big Daddy" Baynes swatted away a desperation shot attempt by Washington's Ryan Appleby and Weaver proceeded to hit three of four free throws for the final margin of victory. Weaver finished with 13 points and a team-high eight rebounds while Low tossed in 11 points.
With the win, the Cougars move to 1-0 in the Pac-10 and continue to remain undefeated at 13-0 on the year – their best start in 72 years.
The Cougars will next play USC at 8 p.m. on Thursday, January 10 in Los Angeles.
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