First Major Test

Washington State's most recent victory may help prepare it for its first major test of the season.

Playing with their highest ranking ever, the No. 6 Cougars look to remain undefeated when they visit unbeaten Baylor on Friday night as part of the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Washington State -2 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 91% of bets for this game have been placed on Washington State -2 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

Washington State (6-0) overcame an early second-half deficit to beat Air Force 71-62 on Sunday to win its Cougar Hispanic College Fund Challenge in nearby Spokane.

The win moved the Cougars up three spots from their previous best ranking in the AP poll.

Though the Cougars shot 48.9 percent and outrebounded Air Force 31-22 for the game, they trailed by four at halftime and three with 13:42 remaining. Washington State also had to get by while leading scorer Derrick Low sat most of the first half after picking up two quick fouls.

"We don't want to see our top players sitting out for 15 minutes a half," said Washington State coach Tony Bennett of Low, who went 6-for-8 from 3-point range and scored all 19 of his points in the second half.

After defeating a series of lesser opponents, Washington responded against Air Force, which reached the NIT semifinals last season and the NCAA tournament in 2006.

The Cougars managed to get through that short stretch of adversity Sunday and it could be beneficial Friday as they try to open 7-0 for the first time since starting 12-0 in 1991-92.

That won't be easy against Baylor (5-0), which is off to its best start since 2001-02 and beat Notre Dame on its way to winning the Paradise Jam tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands earlier this month.

"They are the most athletic and talented team we have played at their place," said Bennett of Baylor, which looks to start 6-0 for the first time since 2000-01. "Defeating Notre Dame was a big win for their program."

Washington State hopes to get more first-half minutes from Low on Friday. The senior guard averages 15.5 points.

The Cougars are also looking for another strong game from guard Taylor Rochestie, who matched a career high with 22 points and added five assists versus Air Force.

Washington State is 13-0 in November under Bennett, but should be tested while trying to improve on that mark in just its second true road game. The Cougars won 86-74 at Boise State on Nov. 13.

Baylor, meanwhile, is coming off an 85-62 home win over Centenary on Saturday in its most recent contest since beating Wichita State, Winthrop and the Irish to win the Paradise Jam title.

Prized freshman guard LaceDarius Dunn scored 17 points for the second straight game Saturday for the Bears, who shot 47.9 percent and recorded a season-high 46 rebounds.

"You're only as good as your last game, but we're confident that we've prepared well," Bears guard Aaron Bruce said. "It's what we do on Friday, and we're looking forward to that challenge because they're a great team."

Baylor is experienced, returning its five starters from last season's 15-16 team, led by junior guard Curtis Jerrells, a preseason All-Big 12 pick who leads the team with 14.0 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists.

Facing a ranked team for the first time this season, Baylor looks to avoid a 29th straight loss to a Top 25 opponent dating to 74-72 win over then-No. 13 Oklahoma State on Feb. 15, 2003.

Washington State won 65-64 over Baylor on Dec. 30, 1972 in the only other meeting between the schools.

by Staff Writers - Email Us

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