SPOKANE, Wash. (AP)—With its stifling defense, Washington State didn’t need extra motivation against neighboring rival Gonzaga.
They got it anyway.
Aron Baynes scored 13 points—nine in the second half—and the No. 8 Cougars’ defense dominated in a 51-47 victory over the frustrated, 17th-ranked Bulldogs on Wednesday night that sent Gonzaga to its first-ever loss at home while ranked.
The Cougars took equal joy in denouncing the pregame comment from the Zags’ Micah Downs that WSU (8-0) was the second-best team in Washington.
“Pretty good showing for the second-best team in the state, I think,” said a smiling Cougars guard Taylor Rochestie, who had the clinching 3-pointer with 29 seconds left.
Downs, who scored 11 points, was contrite.
“They beat our butts,” Downs said. “Good luck to them the rest of the season.”
The Cougars don’t seem to need much luck. They have too much else going for them after holding an opponent to 47 or fewer points for the fourth time in eight games.
Kyle Weaver added 12 points for Washington State, which won for only the eighth time in 112 road games against ranked teams. He also led a halfcourt lockdown that held the generally uptempo Zags (7-2) to their lowest point total since losing 71-47 at Southern Utah on Dec. 23, 1996.
“We couldn’t put the ball in the hole. That doesn’t happen to us very often,” Austin Daye said.
The freshman who wowed with 20 points in a game earlier this season managed just seven, on 1-for-11 shooting.
David Pendergraft had 15 points for Gonzaga, which had won its first 55 home games while ranked. The Zags lost for just the second time in 44 games at the McCarthey Athletic Center, which opened three years ago.
They won seven straight in this series until WSU’s victory last season in Pullman, which catapulted the Cougars from doormats to darlings en route to a school-record 26 wins and a first NCAA tournament berth since 1994.
Wednesday, Gonzaga shot 26 percent—and it seemed lower.
Yet after trailing by 12 during a miserable first half, Gonzaga found itself down by only 42-41 on 3-pointers by Pendergraft sandwiched around a 3 by Micah Downs. But Daye missed a 3-pointer with just under 2 minutes left that would have pulled the Zags to 47-46.
“I was taking shots I had made since the fifth grade. Open threes and one-dribble pull-ups,” Daye said. “But I couldn’t finish it tonight.”
Just as Downs made a 3 with 1:24 left that would have made it 47-46, Gonzaga coach Mark Few called timeout from the bench, nullifying the score. Then Daye missed a runner in the lane off the front of the rim and Rochestie answered with his 3-pointer and a fist pump to clinch coach Tony Bennett’s 34th win in 42 games since he succeeded his father, Dick, as WSU’s coach before last season.
“Extra satisfaction,” Rochestie said, smiling again.
The Cougars’ clinging, man-to-man defense harried Gonzaga into rushed shots, denied even the simplest passing lanes and kept the Bulldogs without a field goal for the final 5:15.
Matt Bouldin, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer coming in, went 0-for-9 from the field with the taller Weaver blanketing him most of the night. Reduced to wild, one-handed scoop shots, Bouldin, who was averaging 14.4 points, went scoreless.
“I just wanted him to have to work hard, not get easy shots,” Weaver said. “I think he was getting frustrated.”
The Bulldogs missed 16 of their first 22 tries and fell behind 26-14 after 16 minutes. They trailed 28-19 at halftime. Gonzaga’s lowest-scoring half in 11 years ended fittingly: Jeremy Pargo rushed down floor—seemingly out of control — and threw up a wild runner from two feet out that banged high off the glass as the horn sounded.
Pargo finished with 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting. He had a career high-tying 23 Saturday in Gonzaga’s win over Connecticut in Boston.
The Cougars had so much bite on defense, Derrick Low’s six-point night on 2-for-8 shooting didn’t matter. Low left second-place-in-state status as scraps for Washington (4-3) and Gonzaga.
“I think the battle for second place will be fought between the Zags and the Dawgs,” Low said, unsolicited. “We made a statement.”
This was perhaps the biggest game ever between the Eastern Washington neighbors, as it was the first time two the teams met while both were ranked. Tickets were going for as much as $200 each—or not going at all. Cougars coach Tony Bennett couldn’t get tickets for legendary WSU quarterback Mark Rypien when the former Super Bowl MVP asked for them months ago.
“This was a big game and a lot of excitement,” Bennett said. “But it’s one game.”