Jan. 28, 2006
PULLMAN, Wash. - Coming into Saturday's game versus Arizona, the Washington State women's basketball team had experienced its share of close losses during the 2005-06 season.
With their 20th contest of the season on tap, the Cougars had experienced nine losses in games decided by 10 points or fewer, including the last four in a row. Among the nine losses was a 61-52 defeat at Arizona, Dec. 27, a game in which the Cougars turned the ball over 35 times.
Saturday's game turned out to be another contest decided by single-digits, but that proved to be the only similarity from the past nine games for WSU.
The victory was the first Pacific-10 Conference triumph for WSU (7-13, 1-10). In addition, in registering their seventh win, WSU secured its most wins in a season since capturing 11 victories during the 2000-01 campaign.
"We were upset with ourselves because we lost the game down there and turned the ball over 35 times," WSU Head Coach Sherri Murrell said of the team's first meeting. "We've have gotten better. Our freshmen have gotten better. Everything that we've done, we've gotten better at and it made a big difference from this game to the last game.
"We've been talking about this all year long: Don't let close losses lose your spirit." Murrell added. "We have an incredibly close team. Our chemistry is amazing and no one has killed our spirit. That's why we finally won one of these close ones."
Moore scored a career-high 28 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field while Benz hit a career-best in points with 24 on 8-of-12 shooting. The duo led an offensive attack that scored the most points in a game since a 93-86 victory over, coincidentally, Arizona, Feb. 10, 2001 at Beasley.
Moore's point output was the most by a Cougar since Bianca McCall scored 29 at Stanford, Jan. 31, 2004. In addition to registering career-highs in points, Moore (12 rebounds) and Benz (11 rebounds) also recorded double-doubles.
Both teams had their moments in the first half, as WSU held as much as a nine-point lead while Arizona (7-14, 3-8) led by as much as six. Tied at 31 with 3:45 remaining, the Cougars ended the opening 20 minutes with a 7-2 run to go into the break with a 38-33 lead.
The Cougars, who never trailed in the second half, opened the final 20 minutes with a 12-4 outburst to extend their lead to 50-37 with 16:22 remaining.
Arizona rallied several times and pulled within five on three instances over the next six minutes, but WSU was able to stymie each Wildcat threat. In face, the Cougars were able to extend its lead back to 10 points on three occasions during the final 10 minutes of the game with the latest occurrence coming at 78-68 with 1:33 left.
The Wildcats had one last rally in them, and closed to 80-76 with 42 seconds remaining but that was as close as Arizona could get.
"We have been in every game and have just come up short," Murrell added. "This is a reward; a reward for not giving up, a reward for the efforts. We are playing good basketball. It is nice to have a reward for all the hard work we are putting in."
WSU shot 50 percent or better in each half, ending the game converting 27-of-52 attempts (51.9 percent). In addition, WSU held a 42-32 edge on the boards over Arizona.
The Cougars return to action, Sunday, Feb. 5 at Washington for a 1 p.m. tip. The game will be televised live on FSN.