Cougars Prevail

It was an astonishing sight.

There was 6-foot-10, 270-pound center Aron Baynes stealing the ball and racing the length of the court for a dunk that gave Washington State a five-point lead.

``I was lucky enough to finish it, emphasis on lucky,'' Baynes joked shortly after No. 17 Washington State beat Arizona State 59-47 on Thursday night to hold on to third place in the Pac-10.

Baynes' play gave the Cougars a 45-40 lead, and more importantly, electrified the crowd and his teammates.

``I was just hoping that he didn't fall down or lose the ball,'' said Washington State guard Derrick Low, who finished with 15 points. ``I just never saw him do that before.''

That's not completely true. Guard Taylor Rochestie said Baynes recently had a steal in practice.

``Somebody said, `Baynes, be realistic, practice what you are going to see in games,''' Rochestie said with a laugh. ``I guess we've just got to let Baynes go.''

Baynes admitted to being surprised by the breakaway, which began when he intercepted a pass intended for Arizona State's Jeff Pendergraph.

``It surprised everyone else too,'' he joked.

Baynes and Rochestie both had 10 points and six rebounds for surging Washington State (21-5, 9-5) which won its fourth straight, the longest current winning streak in the conference.

But it was defense that produced the win.

Arizona State (16-9, 6-7) tied its season low in points and finished 21 points below its average. The Sun Devils shot 22.7 percent in the second half and 33 percent for the game including 6-of-25 from 3-point range. Freshman James Harden, who leads the Sun Devils with an 18.0 average, had 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting.

Harden was bothered by an injured wrist and tight back, coach Herb Sendek said.

``We couldn't get to the basket and we couldn't get to the line,'' Sendek said, although the Sun Devils made all 11 of their free throws. ``Against a team like WSU you have to make your shots and we didn't.''

Sendek also pointed to 13 turnovers, including eight steals by the Cougars.

``Every turnover led to an easy basket for Washington State,'' he said.

Washington State, which is third in the nation in scoring allowing 55 points per game, swept the two-game series with Arizona State for the second straight season.

The Cougars won despite a late second-half scoring drought that saw them held without a field goal for 6 minutes. They shot 43 percent, but went 17-of-24 from the free throw line.

A 3-pointer by Ty Abbott, his first points of the game after scoring 30 in the previous outing, brought Arizona State within 43-40 with 7:42 left. But the Sun Devils did not make another field goal.

Then came Baynes' steal and dunk with 5:57 left.

``It got the crowd in a frenzy. It got us on the bench in a frenzy,'' Washington State's Robbie Cowgill said. ``It's hard not to look at Baynes and smile.''

Harden was fouled on a 3-point attempt and made all three free throws to bring Arizona State within 45-43. Kyle Weaver then made two free throws for Washington State.

Two minutes passed without a basket before Daven Harmeling of the Cougars hit a 3 from the corner for a 50-43 lead with 2:20 left.

In the first half, the Cougars shot 54 percent to lead 30-26.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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