CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP)—Washington State center Aron Baynes got off to a slow start this season. So he’s going for the big finish.
Baynes had a season-high 14 points and six rebounds in the ninth-ranked Cougars’ 58-54 come-from-behind victory over Oregon State on Saturday night.
Mac Hopson’s jumper with 35.5 seconds to go put Washington State ahead for good, but it was Baynes, a 6-foot-10 center from Australia, who made the difference off the bench in a close game for the Cougars.
“When I got the ball I was trying to go up strong,” said Baynes, who injured his left ankle last June and missed the first five games after offseason surgery. “My mentality was to dunk, because I knew I would put them on the spot. They would either have to foul me or let me go through.”
With Oregon State leading 45-38, Baynes scored six straight points then added three free throws to give the Cougars a 47-45 lead.
“I was lucky enough to be in the right spot at the right time,” Baynes said. “I was able to finish some plays—so it wasn’t me, it was the team.”
Washington State (23-5, 12-4 Pac-10) was coming off a 64-59 loss to No. 23 Oregon on Thursday. The loss hurt the Cougars’ chances of catching UCLA in the conference race.
The No. 4 Bruins clinched at least a share of the Pac-10 after Saturday’s 75-61 victory over Stanford put them at 14-2. The Cougars host UCLA on Thursday, before closing out the regular season Saturday against Southern California.
After Baynes’ run, the Beavers stayed in the game and tied it at 54 on Wesley Washington’s layup with 1:02 left. The Cougars took back the lead on Hopson’s jumper.
After Oregon State’s Josh Tarver missed a 3-point attempt, Baynes made a pair of free throws with 8.7 seconds left.
“Aron Baynes changes their entire team,” Oregon State coach Jay John said. “He’s the reason they won the game.”
Oregon State (11-19, 3-14) was coming off a 73-65 victory over Washington on Thursday. The Beavers’ only conference victories have come against the Huskies and Arizona State.
Marcel Jones had 16 points for the Beavers, who had won eight straight against the Cougars at Gill Coliseum. The 273 meetings between the two teams are the fourth-most between a pair of teams in NCAA Division I.
The Beavers took an early 10-3 lead on Tarver’s 3-pointer and were ahead for much of the first half. The Cougars narrowed it to 24-23 on Robbie Cowgill’s layup.
After Kyle Jeffers made one of two free throws, Washington State’s Ivory Clark tied it at 25 with a jumper.
But the Cougars could not get the lead, and Jones’ layup extended the Beavers’ advantage to 32-27 at the break. Jones led all scorers with 12 points at the half.
Tarver’s layup early in the second put the Beavers ahead 37-29, their biggest lead of the game to that point.
After trailing 45-38 midway through the second half, the Cougars tied it at 45 when Baynes hit a hook shot, a layup and a dunk, along with a free throw. He added two more free throws to give Washington State its first lead of the game.
“I think the second half we played some very good, hard-nosed basketball,” Washington State first-year coach Tony Bennett said. “Tournament-type basketball.”
The last Cougar win at Gill was 1998. Washington State defeated the Beavers 70-55 earlier this season in Pullman.
Oregon State’s John was clearly upset after the game, saying: “Do you have to put those cameras on me?”
“Whether people believe where we are or not, that’s their choice to take what they want,” the coach said. “Our program is not that far away.”