Cougars Cruise By USC 76-61
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Two weeks ago, Washington State coach Dick Bennett openly questioned his team's heart. Saturday afternoon, even the ever-demanding Bennett was delighted with his team's effort.
The offensively challenged Cougars shot 58 percent from the field and registered a season high for points in a 76-61 triumph over Southern California at the Spokane Arena.
"That was a good win against a tough team," Bennett said.
"They played a good game," USC coach Henry Bibby said. "They outplayed us in every category."
Jeff Varem led WSU (8-6, 2-2 Pacific-10) with season highs of 22 points and seven rebounds. Shami Gill matched his career high of 17 points; Marcus Moore added 12 points and a season-high eight assists; and Thomas Kelati scored 12 points and put the clamps on USC scoring leader Desmon Farmer in the second half.
Farmer scored just six of his 22 points in the second half, when the Trojans (7-6, 2-2) shot 30 percent after hitting 60 percent in the first half. USC led 40-37 at halftime, but scored only 21 points the rest of the way.
"I think I was most pleased with our second-half defense," Bennett said. "I didn't think we could win a game in the 80's, or even the 70's."
WSU's previous season highs were 73 points and 50.9 percent shooting. The Cougars ranked a distant last in the Pac-10 coming into the game with 54.7 points per game and 40.1 percent shooting.
"They got open shots, and they got layups," said Bibby, who delivered a loud and heated message to his players in the dressing room afterwards. "We wanted an uptempo game; we wanted the game to be high scoring.
"That part was OK in the first half. In the second half, we didn't push the ball, and we missed open shots."
WSU outrebounded the Trojans 35-16, outshot the Trojans 58-44 percent and outscored the Trojans 38-14 in the paint. The Trojans were 9-0 against WSU since losing 95-86 on Jan. 30, 1999 in Pullman.
"We didn't do anything in the post," Bibby said. "Our guys got it in there, but we didn't finish."
The Cougars have already topped last season's seven wins and matched last season's two conference wins. Bennett, a highly successful coach at Wisconsin from 1995-2000, came out of retirement to coach WSU this season.
"This is a new year, a new team and a new philosophy," Moore said.
The Cougars kept pace with the Trojans in a freewheeling first half, then snapped a 48-48 tie midway through the second half with a 7-0 spurt that gave them the lead for good. Gill scored five of the seven points, then went 6-for-6 at the free-throw line during a late 12-0 run that clinched the game.
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