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Washington State's NCAA Tournament History

Editor's Note: This is a four-part series chronicling the Washington State men's basketball team's four trips to the NCAA Tournament in 1941, 1980, 1983 and 1994. The 2007 season marked the fifth trip to the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship for Washington State.

1994 Cougars: A Cinderella Story

March 14, 2007

After the 1983 season, the Washington State basketball program found itself on the outside looking in when it came NCAA Tournament time, but the streak ended when the calendar turned to 1994.

By Conor Laffey
Washington State Athletic Media Relations

It was a true Cinderella story.

For the 1993-94 Cougars, Cinderella was the season itself, but the only dancing Washington State University would be doing consisted of defensive slides and jump shots.

With Cinderella playing the role of the season itself in this story, it still needed to be determined as to who would play the other roles.

Their fairy godmother? WSU Head Coach Kelvin Sampson, who was in his seventh, and as it tuned out, final season as coach. Entering the 1993-94 campaign, Sampson had led the Cougars to three consecutive winning seasons, highlighted with the 1991-92 season of 22 victories and a trip to the NIT.

However, the best was yet to come for Sampson and his Cougars.

Sampson's quest for the 1993-94 season? Ending an 11-year period where the Cougars went without a bid at the NCAA Championship.

The evil step-sister in this story? The Boston College Eagles, but more on them later.

The mice helping getting Cinderella ready for the big dance? The players themselves. Even though they were just mice helping Cinderella get ready for the dance they played like horses that would get their prized princess a carriage ride to the tournament.

Senior point guard Tony Harris and his 13.3 points per game average. Harris started in every game for the Cougars during his final year and led WSU with his emotional style of play and acrobatic dunks.

"Without Tony Harris we aren't here (NCAA Tournament)," Sampson said of his star guard. "Without Tony Harris we are in the NIT or something."

Harris didn't have the lead role all to himself, he had the supporting cast of Mark Hendrickson and Eddie Hill both who averaged double-digits points per game. Hendrickson, a Mount Vernon, Wash. native, averaged 7.4 rebounds per game and 1.2 blocks per game. Hill was known for his three-point shooting as he set the career mark and single-season record during his last year as a Cougar.

The Cougars also received support from freshman Isaac Fontaine, who at times could scorch a team with his hot hand. A starting guard who garnered many accolades throughout his first year including Pac-10 All-Freshman accolades. Fontaine dropped 33 against a Jud Heathcoate coached Michigan State team and proved he could do it against Pac-10 foes, which he demonstrated when he caught on fire for 21 points versus Arizona State.

With the characters in places all that was yet to be determined was the story line itself, especially the finale. An obstacle in front of WSU and its hopes of a Cinderella finish to its season was the fact they hadn't been to the tournament since the 1982-83 season.

The team was balanced with fresh young talent with the play of Hendrickson and Fontaine and veterans Hill and Harris making WSU a tough squad to play against.

Tony Harris

The previous year, WSU lost six Pac-10 games by a total 17 points and also knocked off every conference team at least once with the exception of regular season champion Arizona.

As he embarked on the 1994 season, the first thing Sampson had to do was make sure his players believed they could win. Executing their goal of qualifying for the NCAA Championship would come afterward.

"This is the most talent since I've been here, without a doubt," senior Hill said of his former team at the beginning of the season. "The sky's the limit. It's definitely an NCAA Tournament team."

WSU started the season with something to prove. They stormed off to a 7-0 start with notable wins over Marquette, Michigan State and Alabama. WSU's confidence was gaining, but then hit a speed bump when they faced off against Bob Knight's 12th ranked Indiana Hoosiers.

Indiana would go on a 12-2 run just before halftime and a 15-3 run with six minutes in change remaining to close out the Cougars, 79-64.

The Pac-10 portion of the season began with WSU holding a 10-2 record. The Cougars dropped their conference opener to No. 24 California, 70-54, and would go on to fall in two more Pac-10 games against Stanford and No. 5 UCLA.

The Cougars rebounded and captured four consecutive games. WSU would then sweep Oregon State, Washington and Arizona State before splitting with Oregon.

With two home games remaining in its schedule, WSU would face teams it lost to earlier in the season. The Cougars sat on an 18-9 record and needed the final two games to burst out of the bubble and put on the glass slipper.

WSU would lean on Harris to get ready for the big ball. Harris led five Cougars in double digits with 18 points to lift WSU over Stanford, 77-71, setting the stage for a win-your-in game against nationally-ranked California.

Against the 16th ranked Bears, WSU would again lean on its seniors, this time it was senior guard Hill. Hill had a season-high 27 points and hit seven clutch three-pointers to knock off the Bears in front of 11, 019 fans at Friel Court during WSU's spring break.

It was at that time the Cougars secured a spot on the national spotlight. The Cinderella story was put in place and the Cougars received their bid to the NCAA Championship.

However, ninth-seeded Boston College brought midnight earlier than the eighth-seeded Cougars would have liked. The Eagles eclipsed WSU in the first round game, 67-64. The Eagles would go on to upset top-seeded North Carolina and fifth-seeded Indiana, before falling to Florida in the Elite 8.

The Cinderella season was over for the WSU, but Cougar basketball was back on the map. The season laid the foundation for future players and seasons to come and give Cougar fans a great memory of WSU basketball.

Sampson would leave WSU after the season as he took a job at Oklahoma. The mice that helped Cinderella get ready for the ball graduated. Hendrickson and Fontaine were the main actors remaining from the cast, but they were unable to take the Cougars back to the dance.

The 1994 NCAA tournament team may not have a lot in common with this year's Cougar squad. The 1994 team's roster consisted of many players from the state of Washington while this year's roster has one. This year's Cougars did not have to wait for the last game to see if they would qualify for the tournament.

However, both teams were nationally recognized for their tenacious defense and at times sharp three-point shooting. The other comparison between the two teams, each led Cinderella like seasons.

The Cougars are now led by Tony Bennett, who resembles more of a Prince Charming rather than a fairy godmother. That role goes to his father Dick Bennett who helped bring WSU out of the depths and made it into a nationally competitive program again.

The new mice consist of Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver who were at one time unknowns on the WSU campus, but now can't walk to class without giving a high five to a fellow fan.

No matter what way you look at it, this Cinderella story is long overdue for WSU.

1980 Cougars: A Remarkable Year For Cougar Men's Basketball

March 13, 2007

Not since the memorable 1941 national runner-up season had the Cougars played in the NCAA Tournament, but that streak was put to an end in 1980 when WSU took the floor against Penn in a NCAA first round game. The 1980 Cougars amassed a 22-6 record, marking the first 20-win season for the program since 1949.

By Elizabeth Wiley
Washington State Athletic Media Relations

The 1979-80 season was a year of firsts for the Washington State University men's basketball team, featuring firsts for the program, the players, and the coach.

It was the first trip to the NCAA tournament since 1941 for WSU, ending a 39-year absence from postseason play.

The WSU squad featured five senior starters with four of the quintet averaging double figures in points. Don Collins set the tone with a 23.1 points per game average, a league leading figure, and was second on the team with six rebounds a game. Following Collins in scoring was Stuart House (13.1/8.4), Bryan Rison (12.8), and co-captain Terry Kelly (11.1).

With a 23.1 points a game average, Don Collins led the Pac-10 in scoring in 1980.

As WSU Head Coach George Raveling told the Idahonian, "We have had some good senior classes . . . but I think this is the best senior class since I've been here."

Collins was the first Cougar to be named an All-American. Collins was also named the Pacific-10 Player of the Year, and received recognition from AP, UPI (United Press International), and Sporting News in postseason awards.

Those awards came after Collins was a major contributor for the team in virtually every statistical category. Along with leading the team in scoring, Collins led the Cougars in steals (2.7), was second for rebounds (6.0) and blocked shots (10 total), and third in assists (1.7). Collins set school single-season records in scoring and steals.

Collins set a total of 12 WSU records and one Pac-10 record over the course of his career, including points scored, field goals and field goal percentage, and minutes played. He remains in the record books today in a number of categories. In fact, Collins is first all-time for season totals in steals, field goals, scoring average, and third for career points.

"Donald is probably the best all-around player I've coached at WSU, and one of the best I've coached in 18 years," Raveling said in the March 8, 1980 Idahonian.

Rison and House joined Collins in receiving postseason awards for the athletic achievements.

The experience of the starters also helped the team to split their season series with two ranked Pacific-10 opponents, Arizona State and Oregon State, as well as perennial power UCLA.

The season also marked the first trip to the postseason for the Cougars under Raveling. Raveling entered his eighth year as head coach in the 1979-80 season. WSU steadily improved over the course of his tenure, but the 1980 season capped the rebuilding of the program.

Early on it was predicted that this team would be faster than previous squads. The Cougars entered the season without a major threat at the post position. By using speed and athleticism, WSU was able to outscore their opponents, 75.2 to 64.8.

The Cougars entered the season having lost 7-foot-2 post James Donaldson. This forced House to move from forward to center.

After a 6-1 start in preseason play, the only loss at Alabama-Birmingham, WSU entered conference play ready to compete with the elite. In the first weekend of conference play, the Cougars lost at Arizona State, 75-74, and beat Arizona 59-57.

WSU swept their next three opponents, winning at Washington (72-68) and at home against Stanford (102-74) and California (83-64). Following the wins in Pullman, the Cougars headed to Oregon to meet the second-ranked Oregon State Beavers. WSU fought back from 16 down at halftime but its rally would fall short in the waning seconds of the game.

Head Coach George Raveling

The Cougars followed the OSU loss with a win at Oregon and headed home to take on Southern California and Pac-10 powerhouse UCLA. Collins scored 36 points in a 20 point win over USC (77-57).

Then, WSU beat UCLA for the first time since 1966 in an 80-64 win at Friel Court. Collins had another 30 point effort for the Cougars, scoring 31 points. The win gave the Cougars a 7-2 Pac-10 record and a chance to be conference champions.

The next week, the Cougars lost to the Huskies (64-63) in a game that no one expected the Cougars to lose. Following the loss WSU won three straight at California (80-68), Stanford (93-75), and home versus Oregon (81-66). Bryan Rison shot and made a Pac-10 record 23-25 free throws in the tilt against Oregon.

WSU carried the three-game winning streak into a home rematch against conference leader Oregon State, ranked No. 4 in the nation. The Cougars used a strong second half to defeat the Beavers 69-51 in front of a capacity crowd. Rison again came up big, with 20 points on 5-10 from the field and 10-11 from the charity stripe.

The victory resulted in recognition for the Cougars. Rison was named the Pac-10 Player of the Week and Sports Illustrated picked Collins. WSU also received national rankings, 20 in the AP poll and 19 in the UPI coaches' poll.

WSU won the last three conference games after an 80-66 loss at UCLA. The team got its 20th win against USC. Stuart House shot a record 92.3 percentage from the field (12-13). Then, the Cougars beat No. 16 Arizona State 71-58 and came back from a double-digit deficit to win its final game against Arizona, 74-71, both at home.

After beating the two Arizona schools, the Cougars ended the regular season with a 22-5 record, marking the first 20-win season for WSU since 1949. The Cougars earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament and was placed as a fifth seed in the Midwest Regional against Ivy League champion Pennsylvania.

WSU went on to lose in the opening round to Pennsylvania 62-55. Three players scored 43 of the team's points: Collins had 20, as he continued to play consistently, and Kelly and Preston contributed 13 and 10 respectively.

With the score tied at 51, a pivotal point of the game occurred when Collins fouled out with 3:57 left. Penn outscored WSU 11-4 the rest of the way.

"I think we're capable of beating anybody when we play up to our ability level for 40 minutes," said Raveling, in the Chronicle on March 4. "But there are no easy opponents when you get to this stage of the season - there's no tomorrow in the NCAA. One bad night and you're gone."

1983 Cougars: A Team That Came Together

March 12, 2007

With the exception of the 1917 and 1941 teams, the 1983 Cougars were the most successful team in program history, advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It was a team perceived as having no stars, but that may have been their greatest attribute.

By Amanda Piechowski
Washington State Athletic Media Relations

"Washington State is a team of many heroes, yet a team with no stars."

It was no easy journey in 1983 for the Washington State men's basketball team as the Cougars seemed to constantly be fighting for their place in the national spotlight. This quote, taken from a March 1983 press release, describes a Cougar team that came together to earn their second NCAA Tournament appearance in four years.

WSU Head Coach George Raveling

At the start of the 1983 season, WSU was ranked no higher than fourth in several preseason polls, but how could you blame anyone? After making their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 39 years in 1980, the Cougars finished dead last in the Pac-10 with a 3-15 conference record in 1981. The team did improve to a fifth-place finish in 1982 after mustering 10 conference wins but still seemed to be a far cry from the 22-win campaign just two years earlier.

The 1983 season looked as if it would pan out much like the previous two years as WSU started out 3-2 in its first five non-conference matches, including a 62-58 overtime loss at Idaho and a 61-58 loss at Montana. The Cougars weren't playing anyone particularly noteworthy, but they still couldn't win games, so why expect anyone to believe in the program again?

Starting December 14, however, people slowly started taking notice.

Not only did the Cougars start winning games, but they also began living up to this "team with no stars" mindset.

First, senior forward Steve Harriel scored 27 points on 12-of-16 shooting from the field to lead the Cougars to an 87-78 victory over Pacific Lutheran in Pullman. A few days later, senior Guy Williams paced WSU to an 80-51 win against Eastern Montana as he scored 20 points and picked up 11 rebounds. Then Chris Winkler, a sophomore guard, hit a career-high 20 points against Montana State for a lopsided 96-64 Cougar victory, their third straight win.

Suddenly the Cougars were clicking -- clicking so well that they would go on to own the third-largest win streak in the nation, winning 12 straight games that included a 72-70 double overtime, come-from-behind victory over Washington.

In all 12 games, at least two WSU players were scoring in double figures and, in 10 of those games, someone scored at least 20 points. Guy Williams scored a school-record 43 points against Idaho State, and Steve Harriel totaled 32 against Arizona State, just to name a few of WSU's eye-opening performances. As a whole, WSU shot over 50 percent from the field 10 times.

Then Williams, one of the nation's premier scorers, suffered a season-ending injury doing nothing more than dribbling and spinning past a defender against Oregon, Jan. 22. Completely untouched, Williams went down and ended up with a torn ACL and a permanent seat on the sidelines, leaving the team to wonder how they would be able to keep up their success without Williams, who had been averaging 18.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.

Soon they found their answer. Very simply, the other Cougars began stepping up and filling in where needed.

Sophomore Chris Winkler, who had scored just three points as a freshman, emerged almost out of nowhere. He scored 13 points against Oregon the day Williams went down and would score in double-digits seven more times during the season. He led the Cougars in scoring with 15 points against California in a 56-54 WSU victory Feb. 26.

Then it was freshman forward Ricky Brown who suddenly found himself a starter. He nailed a free throw to begin a five-point run for WSU, putting the Cougars up by five in overtime against Oregon State, Feb. 19. At the end of the season, he was named to the Pac-10 All-Rookie team.

Guy Williams

Brian Pollard earned a starting nod late in the season and responded with a career-high 21 points against both USC (March 5) and UCLA (March 7), where he tipped in a missed shot by Winkler at the buzzer for the 70-68 win against the Bruins.

It was quite the ride for players, coaches and fans alike. Of the Cougars' 28 regular season games, 15 were decided by five points or less with WSU winning 11 of those close matches. WSU took an opponent to overtime on four different occasions, including the one double-overtime match against Washington. The Cougars finished their conference schedule shooting a school record 50.3 percent from the field.

WSU won seven of its eight final regular season games and finished second in the Pac-10 with an overall record of 22-6 and a 14-4 conference record. The Cougars were on their way to Boise and the first round of the 1983 NCAA Tournament to take on Weber State.

Entering the game, many felt the Cougars and the Wildcats were a very close matchup. While Weber State would probably have an advantage on defense, WSU appeared to have a stronger offense.

"We're comparable in terms of style and lacking that overly dominate player who would control a game", said Weber State Head Coach Neil McCarthy in a March 1983 article in the Lewiston Morning Tribune.

But in the end, it was the Cougars who outplayed the Wildcats and advanced to the second round with a 62-52 win.

"I just feel for 40 minutes we played better defense and rebounded better," said WSU Head Coach George Raveling in a postgame interview.

And in true Cougar fashion, no one player stood out. Craig Ehlo led in scoring with 18 points while Steve Harriel contributed 12 rebounds in the win. Raveling played 12 of his men, seven of which scored.

Up next for WSU? The fourth-ranked Virginia Cavaliers -- or, more accurately, 7-foot-4 Ralph Sampson and the rest of the No. 4 Virginia Cavaliers. All the attention rested on how the Cougars would handle Sampson, a three-time Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, never mind the rest of the Virginia team.

"Too much is being made of Ralph's presence," expressed Raveling at a pregame press conference. "People forget Virginia has other great players."

In the end, the Cavaliers defeated the Cougars 54-49. Yet, it was words like "survived" and "edged" that described Virginia's victory. As the number one rebound team in the country at the time, they were out-rebounded 33-24 by WSU. Even more impressive, WSU held Sampson to only one field goal attempt in the second half.

"In some ways, we played as close to our ability level as possible," said Raveling after the game.

And just like that, the season was over. With 23 wins, Raveling's Cougars earned the most wins in a season since 1941 when WSU went 26-6.

WSU's four seniors, Steve Harriel, Craig Ehlo, Aaron Haskins and Guy Williams, left and were drafted into the NBA while Raveling accepted the head coaching position at the University of Iowa.

It has been almost 25 years since WSU made a trip to the NCAA Tournament, but even over the span of two decades, the memory of the 1983 team, its successes and its failures, continues to live on.

1941 Cougars: One Of The Greatest

March 11, 2007

The 1941 men's basketball season still lives in Cougar lore. Picked to finish at the bottom of the conference standings, Washington State completed the 1940-41 season with a 26-6 record. The 26 wins still rank as the most in program history.

Sixty-six years later, the 1941 Washington State Cougars is not only remembered as one of the great men's basketball teams in school history, but as one of the greatest teams in any sport.

By Jason Krump
Washington State University Athletics

Heading into the 2006-07 season, the Washington State men's basketball team was picked to finish last in the Pacific-10 Conference by a panel of media members.

Head Coach Jack Friel

How the Cougars will conclude the 2006-07 campaign is still an unknown, but regardless of what happens, this season has become one of the most successful in school history.

A team possessing a major role in this history is the 1941 Cougars, a squad that has something in common with the 2006-07 Cougars.

Lightly respected heading into the 1941 season, the Cougars registered a season that remains one of most highly regarded of any Washington State athletic program.

In 1941, the Washington State College basketball team was projected to finish at the bottom of the Pacific Coast North Conference, a conference made up of the Cougars, Washington, Oregon State, Oregon and Idaho.

The season culminated with the Cougars winning a still standing school record 26 games, and advancing all the way to the national championship game, marking the second best season in Washington State history (national championship season of 1917).

An excerpt from Dick Fry's 1989 book about the history of Washington State University Athletics, The Crimson and the Gray states the 1941 Cougars possessed four seniors: Paul Lindeman, Dale Gentry, Ray Sundquist (captain), and Vern Butts; four juniors: Kirk Gebert, John Hooper, Jim Zimmerman, and Al Akins; and four sophomores: Marv Gilberg, Owen Hunt, Phil Mahan, and Chuck Dosskey.

The starting lineup featured the four seniors, including Lindeman, a 6-foot-7, 230 pound center who paced the Cougars in scoring with 326 points (10.2). Gentry and Butts were at the forward positions, while Sundquist and junior Gebert held down the guard positions. Head Coach Jack Friel, who consistently used 11 players in his "rotation," also incorporated the 6-foot-2 Gilberg as his "sixth man" for Butts.

The 1940-41 Cougars

What was Friel's prediction for the Pacific Coast North for his Cougars entering the 1940-41 season?

"A good scrap between Oregon and Washington," Friel said in the Nov. 20, 1940 Daily Evergreen. Friel, who was entering his 13th season as WSC head coach, went on to state that his Cougars and defending champion Oregon State would probably be weaker this year due to the graduation of first string men. The Cougars lost captains Jack Jennings and Bill Chase from the 1940 squad, a team that went 23-10 and finished third in the Pacific Coast North with a 9-7 record.

Friel went on to say that "although we are weak on defense, the team has excellent spirit, and that is a big point in our favor."

The Cougars opened the season in a spirited manner with six straight wins. In the seventh game of the season, the Cougars, with much of the team battling the flu, suffered their first loss of the year, 37-30, to Eastern Washington, Dec. 19.

WSC responded with three straight wins, which included avenging its defeat to Eastern with an emphatic 78-39 win, to head into the conference portion of the schedule with a 9-1 record.

The conference season started ominously, with two consecutive losses at Oregon State.

In the first game, WSC held a five-point lead with five minutes to play, and the game was tied at 39 with two minutes left; however, the Beavers scored the game's final six points to take a 45-39 win.

The second game was just as disheartening, if not more so, for the Cougars. Despite leading 26-10 at the half, the Cougars lost, 44-42, to Oregon State.

Friel said in the Evergreen that the Beavers looked good, both offensively and defensively, and expressed that Oregon State is a good, sound club. Amending his opinion from the beginning of the season, Friel went on to say that Oregon State has the best chance to run off with the title for the second consecutive year.

WSC rebounded from the defeats to take two from Oregon at Eugene before returning to the Palouse.

The wins at Oregon ended one streak and began another for the Cougars. Five more conference wins followed, improving the Cougars' record to 16-3. WSC hit a brief speed bump, a 47-37 loss to the AAU Signal Oil team at Longview, Feb. 11, but the conference winning streak, which had now stretched to seven games, was still alive and would be put at risk with a date at Washington on Valentine's Day.

The Cougars achieved a season sweep over Washington for the first time since the 1917 national championship team.

The streak extended to eight, and then nine, with a close 44-42 win over the Huskies, Feb. 14, and a more comfortable 39-31 win the following day.

With two wins secured over the Huskies, what had been unthinkable could now become a reality: a season sweep over Washington.

The last time the Cougars achieved a season sweep over their intrastate rival was in 1917, coincidentally the program's national championship season. Nearly a quarter century later, the Cougars found themselves with the opportunity to sweep Washington again as the teams met for back-to-back games, this time at Pullman, Feb. 21 and 22.

Before a near capacity crowd of 5,300 at Bohler Gym, WSC bested UW 50-38 to open the series. Seven minutes into the game, the score was tied at seven, but after that it was all WSC. The Cougars went into the break with a 27-18 advantage and were never threatened in the second half. Lindeman led the Cougars with 13 points.

The following day, the Cougars defeated Washington even more convincingly, 69-47, before 5,500 fans. WSC opened up a 15-point lead during the first 10 minutes and cruised the rest of the way. Lindeman, Butts, Gilberg, and Sundquist each scored 10 points to lead WSC.

The sweep over Washington extended the Cougars' conference win streak to 11 games. It would grow to a conference-record 13 wins with victories over Idaho and Oregon State. The 37-35 win over Idaho, March 1, clinched the Pacific Coast North title for WSC.

The streak finally came to an end with a 50-45 loss to the Beavers in the regular season finale. The Cougars' only three conference losses of the season came to Oregon State. Prior to the 1941 campaign, WSC had a 29-13 mark over the Beavers during Friel's time at Washington State.

At the conclusion of the regular season, the winner of the north played the champion of the south (Stanford, Southern California, California and UCLA) in a best two out of three series to determine the champion of the Pacific Coast Conference. In this case, the Cougars faced Stanford to determine the champion.

Washington State swept Stanford in the Pacific Coast Conference finals.

Playing at Pullman, Washington State found itself down at halftime of the first game, 20-13, playing with what the Chinook yearbook called "a bad case of jitter-it is." Those jitters evaporated in the second half as the Cougars rallied to capture the first game, 46-43.

The outcome was less in doubt in the second game. WSC jumped out to a 26-19 halftime lead en route to a 44-40 victory over Stanford, claiming the Pacific Coast Conference title and a berth to the NCAA Tournament that came with it.

In 1941, the NCAA Tournament was an East-West championship format. The NCAAs were at Kansas City, and the Cougars were joined by Arkansas, Wyoming and Creighton in the West bracket.

Led by 26 points from Lindeman, Washington State defeated Creighton 48-39 in the West semifinals, March 21. Facing Southwest Conference champion Arkansas in the West final the following evening, Washington State disposed of Arkansas, 64-53, to advance to the national championship game.

The Cougars handled Arkansas throughout, leading by as much as 20 at one point in the second half. Once again Lindeman led the scoring effort with 14 points. He was helped by Gebert and Butts, who scored 12 and 11 points, respectively.

The win earned WSC the title of West champions and propelled the Cougars into the NCAA championship game, once again at Kansas City, Mo., March 29 against the East champion Wisconsin Badgers.

In the championship game, Gebert scored 21 of WSC's 34 points in a 39-34 loss to the Badgers. Gebert connected on 10-of-24 field goals in the game. The Cougars trailed 21-17 at halftime and closed to within 24-22 early in the second half, but were never able to take the lead.

In The Crimson and the Gray, Friel is quoted as remembering that Wisconsin "sagged on Lindeman, so we concentrated on our weave and tried to free up our outside shooters."

"Gebert was the only one who hit well that night," Friel recalled. "It was tough to get the ball to Lindeman, but maybe we didn't do it enough."

In spite of the loss to Wisconsin, the 1941 season lives in Cougar lore. Picked to finish at the bottom of the north conference, Washington State completed the 1940-41 season with a 26-6 record. The 26 wins still rank as the most in program history.

With 25 wins, the 2006-07 edition of the Cougars have a chance to tie the 1941 team's win total when they face Oral Roberts in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Thursday, March 15. If that happens, it would become just one more element these two historic Cougars teams would have in common.

Washington State Cougars Men's Basketball