Nov. 7, 2007
COUGARS OPEN SEASON AGAINST EAGLES: The most decorated coach in a single season in Pacific-10 Conference history, Tony Bennett enters his second season at the helm for Washington State as the No. 10/10 Cougars open the 2007-08 season hosting Eastern Washington Friday, Nov. 9, at 6:30 p.m. at Friel Court. The game follows the WSU women's season opener against Portland at 4 p.m.
The Cougars and Eagles renew a rivalry that dates back to the 1906-07 season, after a nine-year hiatus. The game can be seen live on KHQ TV in Spokane and on FSN Northwest and FCS in various regions of the Northwest. Bud Nameck has the radio call on the Cougar Basketball Radio Network. The game is also available online at www.wsucougars.com.
WSU is coming off a record-setting season, as it tied a school record with 26 wins, and made its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1994 and recorded its first win in the tournament since 1983 in 2006-07. Picked to finish last in the Pacific-10 Conference prior to the season, WSU went 13-5 in league play finishing in second place to tie the school record.
The Cougars return four starters from last season's squad, including All-Pacific-10 Conference First Team honorees Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver. The backcourt duo became the first WSU pair to be honored in the same season since 1996.
ABOUT THE EAGLES: Friday's game marks the official coaching debut for Eastern Washington's Kirk Earlywine, who takes over the coaching reigns after one year as the top assistant at UNC Wilmington. A 22-year coaching veteran, the 43-year-old Earlywine previously coached at Big Sky foe Weber State.
EWU is coming off a 15-14 finish last season and an 8-8 Big Sky Conference mark. Last season the Eagles had their streak of consecutive league conference tournament berths snapped at nine.
THE SERIES: Friday's matchup is the 62nd all-time between the Cougars and the Eagles, with WSU holding a 50-11 lead in the series. The teams last met Dec. 5, 1998, resulting in a 91-72 WSU victory in Cheney. One year prior, Eastern snapped a 17-game losing streak to Washington State with an 83-82 victory in Kennewick, Wash., Dec. 22, 1997. The Cougar loss snapped their winning streak which stretched back to 1952.
AGAINST THE BIG SKY: Washington State holds a 167-48 record against current members of the Big Sky Conference. This season the Cougars will face three Big Sky opponents in EWU, Montana (Nov. 23) and Idaho State (Dec. 23).
COUGARS IN SEASON OPENERS: The Cougars are 86-20 all-time in season openers and have won their last five. They have won 19-consectutive Friel Court openers with their last loss coming to BYU by a score of 60-53, Dec. 3, 1987. WSU is 9-1 all-time in season openers against Eastern Washington, the last time the two met in the Cougars' opener resulted in an 87-59 Cougar victory, Nov. 29, 1994.
NEAR PERFECT IN NOVEMBER: The Nov. 9 opener this season is the Cougars' earliest start in school history, bettering last season's Nov. 10 start. WSU is 28-0 all-time in the month of November at Friel Court and has won 25-straight November games in Pullman and are 30-1. The Cougars' only loss in Pullman in November was 77-47 to Colorado State, Nov. 30, 1963.
FAMILIAR FACES: Although this is their first meeting as head coaches at their respective schools, WSU head coach Tony Bennett and EWU head coach Kirk Earlywine do have a history in the state of Washington. Bennett and Earlywine faced off in the 2003 NCAA Tournament First Round in Spokane when Bennett served as an assistant at Wisconsin and Earlywine was an associate head coach at Weber State. Bennett's Badgers came out on top, 81-74.
COUGARS LAND IN PRESEASON POLLS: For the first time in school history, the Cougars are ranked in the Associated Press preseason top 25, coming in at No. 10. WSU is also ranked 10th in the preseason ESPN/USA Today poll. The Cougars' No. 10 AP ranking is one off of their highest-ever, a No. 9 ranking, which they reached Feb. 9, 2007.
The Cougars success in 2006-07 has not gone unnoticed as the Cougars garner preseason rankings from various publications. Lindy's, CBSSportsline.com, Hoopvibe.com and The Sports Flow list Washington State at No. 7; The Sporting News puts the Cougars at No. 8; The Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook has WSU come in at No. 12; and CollegeHoops.net and Rivals.com both place the Cougars at No. 14.
LOW AND WEAVER ON WATCH LISTS: Senior guards Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver have each been named to both the 2007-08 Naismith Trophy presented by AT&T Preseason Watch List and the Men's 2007-08 John R. Wooden Award Top-50 Candidate list.
Weaver is also a preseason 2008 Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award Candidate. On top of that, Weaver has been named to the Basketball Times preseason All-America team and was named a third-team preseason All-American by Fox Sports.
COUGARS HOLD HOT TICKET: With expectations set high for the Cougars in 2007-08, tickets are going fast for WSU home games this season. Friday's game against Eastern is sold out, as is the Cougars' regular season finale against Washington, set for March 8. Season tickets are also going fast, as less than 100 remain, while fewer than 200 tickets are left for WSU's Feb. 7 meeting with preseason Pac-10 favorite, UCLA.
BOEKE'S WSU DEBUT DELAYED: Washington State freshman Fabian Boeke has not been certified for competition by the NCAA, therefore at this time is not permitted to compete in the upcoming exhibition game and regular season competition.
Boeke, a native of Kummerfeld, Germany, played four seasons with the Ehingen Club team in Germany. The club team Boeke played on was a mix of high school players and a few older individuals. Members of that club team, not including Boeke, received stipends that the NCAA determined were above actual and necessary expenses. Therefore, the Ehingen team is deemed a professional organization by the NCAA.
Boeke is currently eligible to continue practicing with the team while WSU continues to resolve the issue with the NCAA eligibility center.
LOW AND WEAVER REPRESENT WSU; USA: Seniors Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver became the first Cougar men's basketball players to represent the United States when they participated in the 2007 Pan American Games. The duo, which made WSU just the eighth school to have two student-athletes on the same Pan Am squad, helped team USA to a 3-2 record and fifth place finish. Low started three games averaging 14.3 points in those contests. Weaver saw action in three games, starting two and averaging 2.7 points.
ABERCROMBIE AND BAYNES AT WORLD GAMES:Redshirt freshman Thomas Abercrombie and junior Aron Baynes represented their native countries of New Zealand and Australia, respectively, at the 2007 World University Games. Abercrombie, of Auckland, New Zealand, averaged 4.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in route to a 15th place finish. Baynes of Cairns, Australia was third at the games in scoring and second in rebounding with 18.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per game in leading his team to a 17th place finish.
COUGARS GO INTERNATIONAL: The Cougars traveled to Australia and New Zealand for a 14-day international tour in June, 2007. WSU played six games in a nine-day span, finishing the trip with a 4-2 record, with both losses coming by one point. Among the highlights of the trip were visits to the homes of Auckland, New Zealand native Thomas Abercrombie and Cairns, Australia native Aron Baynes'.
ROCHESTIE GIVING BACK:Redshirt junior guard Taylor Rochestie decided to voluntarily come off his scholarship for the 2008-09 year, his senior season. Rochestie made the decision in order to free up another scholarship and give back to the program. WSU Head Coach Tony Bennett said of his guard's decision, "I think this shows how much of a leader and great teammate Taylor is and for him to want to do something like this to help establish the future of our program in this manner is just incredible."
STIFF COMPETITION: The Cougars' 2007-08 schedule features 13 games against teams that reached the postseason last year. The Cougar Hispanic College Fund Classic in Spokane (Nov. 23-25) features NIT participants Air Force and Mississippi Valley State. The other non-conference opponent returning from a postseason run is in-state rival Gonzaga, coming off of their ninth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. The other 10 games come from the five Pacific-10 conference foes that return from the 2007 NCAA Tournament: USC (away Jan. 10/home Feb. 9), UCLA (away Jan 12/home Feb. 7), Oregon (home Jan. 20/away Feb. 16), Arizona (away Jan. 24/home Feb. 23), and Stanford (home Feb. 2/away Mar. 1).
2006-07 Tony Bennett ACCOLADES: Washington State Head Coach Tony Bennett led the Cougars to 26 wins in 2006-07, tied for most in school history. He won The Naismith, Associated Press, The Sporting News, United States Basketball Writers Association, Basketball Times, CBS/Chevrolet, Collegehoops.net, Collegeinsider.com (Jim Phelan Award) and Rivals.com National Coach of the Year Awards. Bennett was also named Pacific-10 Conference, United States Basketball Writers Association District 9, National Association of Basketball Coaches District 14 and Collegeinsider.com Pacific-10 coach of the year and became the most decorated Pac-10 coach in a single-season.
MORE BENNETT: Tony Bennett completed his first season at the helm of the Cougar program and his fourth year with WSU. He was an assistant coach in 2003-04 and an associate head coach in 2004-05 and 2005-06...assistant coach at Wisconsin from 2000-03. He became the first head coach at a current Pac-10 institution to start 7-0 in his inaugural campaign at the school since Stanford's Robert W. Burnett was 9-0 in 1951-52. Bennett's accomplishment is tied for the third best start in a debut season at Pac-10 school in the post-World War II era.
COUGARS EQUAL BEST PAC-10 FINISH IN 2007: Washington State's 88-86 double overtime win over No. 23 USC last March 3 earned sole possession of second place in the final Pac-10 standings. It was the first time WSU had finished in the upper division of the conference since a tie for fifth in 1994-95. The second place finish equals best finish in Pac-10 history (1982-83).
WSU WINS PILED UP: The Cougars won 26 games in 2006-07, tied for most in school history. WSU posted 26 wins in 1940-41 (NCAA runner-up), and 25 in 1916-17 (national champions by the Helms Foundation of Los Angeles). WSU's 13 Pac-10 wins are third in school history (14 in 1979-80 and 1982-83). WSU won 14 more games than the previous season, marking the second biggest improvement in school history (won eight in 1943-44 and 23 in 1944-45).
COUGARS IN THE POLLS: Washington State finished in the top 25 in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls. The Cougars began receiving votes after upsetting then-No. 18 Gonzaga, 77-67, Dec. 5. They earned their first AP ranking (No. 22, Jan. 8) since Feb. 1983.
WSU IN NATIONAL RANKINGS: The Cougars ranked nationally in fewest turnovers (fourth, 10.4 per game), scoring defense (17th, 59.5 points per game), win-loss percentage (21st, 76.5), fewest personal fouls committed (25th, 16.1 per game), field goal percentage defense (29th, 40.4), blocked shots (44th, 4.6 per game, and scoring margin (45th, +7.3 points per game). Kyle Weaver ranked 32nd in steals per game (2.2).
COUGARS IN PAC-10 RANKINGS: Washington State led the Pac-10 in scoring defense (59.5 points per game), turnover margin (plus 3.47 per game), and assist to turnover ratio (1.33). WSU ranked second in field goal percentage defense (40.4) and blocked shots (4.56). It also ranked third in 3-point field goal percentage defense (33.1), scoring margin (plus 7.3 points per game) and 3-point field goal percentage (37.2).