Washington State coach Tony Bennett wasn't any more illuminating on his future than he was 34 days ago, when he said he wouldn't say anything...
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Washington State coach Tony Bennett wasn’t any more illuminating on his future than he was 34 days ago, when he said he wouldn’t say anything about the Indiana vacancy to which his name has been linked.
“Right now, I’m coach at Washington State,” he said after WSU’s exit from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament against North Carolina. “I want to talk about the seniors and what’s going on tonight.”
Indiana, which ousted ex-WSU coach Kelvin Sampson in February, is thought to have interest in Bennett, who last year signed a seven-year deal with WSU at about $800,000 per year.
Washington State athletic director Jim Sterk said he believes Bennett will remain in Pullman. “He enjoys what’s happening,” Sterk said. “He’s building a program. He’s excited.”
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Sterk said he knew of no contact made yet expressing interest in Bennett but he expects it.
“I’m sure some people will want to talk to him.” the AD said.
Washington State has revived a fund for basketball excellence, hoping to use it for facilities renovations, charter travel and greater resources for “guarantee” games so that it doesn’t have to be on the road so much for nonconference games.
“I’m confident he’s coming back and hopeful he’s coming back,” said junior guard Taylor Rochestie.
Bennett said he doesn’t believe the idea that WSU, in a tough conference fighting programs with much greater resources, went as far as it possibly could with the Sweet 16 run.
“I understand that a lot of people say there’s a ceiling at Washington State, but I don’t buy that,” says Bennett, who has a well-regarded recruiting class coming in. “It’ll be a challenge. It’ll be hard.”
The program loses three key seniors that helped WSU rebuild. Said Sterk, “The way they did it and the type of people they are. The seniors and the coaches, they did it with class and integrity.”
He called the seniors “a special group that everyone will remember for a heck of a long time.”
“I told them in the locker room, I’m going to miss those guys,” Bennett said. “We took a chance on them, and they took a chance on us.”
For most of the night, player of the year Tyler Hansbrough was just another touted center WSU was having its way with.
At halftime, struggling against WSU’s double teams, he had two points on 0-of-4 shooting. Last weekend, Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody was 3 for 21 against the Cougars.
But Hansbrough came back for 16 second-half points.
“He’s good,” WSU forward Robbie Cowgill said. “It seems like he finds a way to put the ball in the hole.”
• WSU’s 26 victories matched last year’s total, tying a school record.
• The Tar Heels have won NCAA games by 39, 31 and 21 points.
|WASHINGTON ST. (26-9)|
Percentages: FG .316, FT .600. Three-point goals: 2-16, .125 (Low 2-9, Rochestie 0-1, Forrest 0-1, Harmeling 0-2, Weaver 0-3). Team rebounds: 4. Blocked shots: 5 (Weaver 3, Forrest 2). Turnovers: 10 (Weaver 4, Low 2, Koprivica, Harmeling, Baynes, Rochestie). Steals: 6 (Rochestie 2, Baynes 2, Cowgill, Weaver). Technical fouls: None.
|NORTH CAROLINA (35-2)|
Percentages: FG .431, FT .684. Three-point goals: 5-15, .333 (Green 3-5, Lawson 1-3, Ellington 1-4, Campbell 0-1, Thomas 0-1, Hansbrough 0-1). Team rebounds: 4. Blocked shots: 5 (Stepheson 3, Green, Hansbrough). Turnovers: 13 (Ellington 3, Thompson 3, Hansbrough 3, Lawson 2, Green 2). Steals: 5 (Green 3, Ellington, Hansbrough). Technical fouls: None.
Attendance: 19,092. Officials: Timothy Higgins, John Hughes, Raymond Perone.