Dec. 6, 2006
PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) - Washington State basketball coach Tony Bennett gave his father Dick a get-well present ahead of his upcoming hip replacement surgery.
Derrick Low scored 22 points and Daven Harmeling 20 as Washington State (8-1) improved on one of the best starts in team history before the largest crowd here in more than a decade with a 77-67 victory over No. 18 Gonzaga on Tuesday night.
Dick Bennett came out of retirement to spend three years rebuilding the WSU program before turning the reins over to Tony this season.
Scheduled for surgery on Thursday, the elder Bennett had talked about what a good present a Cougar victory would be heading into the ordeal, Tony said.
"He is the architect of this thing and we are all a part of it," Tony Bennett said. "Just to send him to surgery on such a good note is great."
The Cougars overcame poor free throw shooting to break a seven-game losing streak to Gonzaga. Many in the crowd of 10,755 stormed the floor after the win.
"Our guys have never played with that many people behind them to energize them," Tony Bennett said. "They have played with 11,000 screaming against them."
Gonzaga (8-2) was led by Josh Heytvelt's 22 points, while Derek Raivio added 21.
Trailing 66-63 with 3:38 left, Washington State outscored the Bulldogs 14-1, including a pair of 3-pointers by Harmeling, for the win.
Gonzaga's high-powered offense was cruising early, taking a 37-27 lead with 5 minutes left in the first.
But Washington State, tops in the Pacific 10 in defense by allowing just 58 points per game, clamped down and ground the Zags to a halt. They outscored Gonzaga 42-26 in the second half.
"We did a really, really poor job of defending in the last 5 minutes," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of the decisive run. "We had a lot of silly turnovers.
"Our defense really broke down," Few said. "The Cougars deserve a lot of credit."
Gonzaga committed 17 turnovers to just seven by WSU. And the Cougars overcame 18-of-29 shooting from the free throw line, including a stretch when they missed five of six with the game on the line.
But the Cougars made 8-of-12 3-pointers in the second half to stay ahead.
After trailing 41-35 at halftime, the Cougars came out strong in the second and Kyle Weaver's 3-pointer gave WSU its first lead of the game at 45-44 with 16 minutes left.
The teams swapped several leads before a 9-0 Gonzaga run, the final six by Heytvelt, gave Gonzaga a 56-49 advantage.
The Cougars missed five of six free throws during a quick span after that. But Low's 3-pointer capped an 8-0 WSU run for a 63-62 lead with 4:34 left.
Heytvelt replied with two free throws and a layup for a 66-63 Gonzaga lead.
But Washington State kicked off its closing run with two free throws by Kyle Weaver, who finished with 16 points, and Harmeling's 3-pointer for a 68-66 lead with 2:44 left.
After the teams swapped free throws, Low made a layup and the free throw for a 72-67 lead with 1:26 left.
Raivio's 3-pointer rimmed out and Harmeling sank another 3-pointer for a 75-67 Washington State lead with 42 seconds left.
The crowd was the largest at WSU's Friel Court since 11,463 watched UCLA at WSU in 1995. The Cougars have not had a winning record in a decade and crowds averaged 3,700 last year.
"I got goose bumps," said Tony Bennett.
Washington State is 74-3 at home against non-conference opponents in the past 16 years, with two of the losses to Gonzaga.