The easy win over Oregon showed again that the Washington State Cougars appear to be peaking at the right time, having won four of their past five games.
LOS ANGELES — Now comes the hard part in Washington State’s quest for the Pac-10 tournament title and the NCAA berth that is its main reward.
After swiftly dispatching of Oregon Wednesday night 62-40 in the first round here at Staples Center, the Cougars get to play UCLA tonight at 8:30. And the Cougars won’t catch UCLA napping, after having beaten the Bruins 82-81 in nearby Pauley Pavilion Feb. 21.
But the easy win over Oregon showed again that the Cougars appear to be peaking at the right time, having won four of their past five.
“I think we’ve been playing solid,” said WSU coach Tony Bennett. “Now it’s the opportunity we wanted.”
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WSU jumped out to a 16-6 lead after eight minutes against the Ducks and were never really threatened. Center Aron Baynes scored 14 of his 20 points in the first half, then turned it over to forward Caleb Forrest, who scored 10 of his 14 in the second. The Cougars dumped the ball inside often — WSU didn’t make a three-pointer for the first time since February 2006.
Guard Taylor Rochestie, named this week to the All-Pac-10 team, had a season-low four points on 1 of 5 shooting but spent much of the night driving and dishing and he finished with six assists.
The Cougars are now 17-14, solidifying their hopes for a postseason berth of some kind, though their strong play of late has them thinking big.
Bennett, though, doesn’t figure WSU can beat UCLA again if they allow 81 points. “Offensively, we were very good,” he said. “Defensively, hopefully we can improve.”
Oregon fell to 8-23 for the season, its worst record since a 6-21 mark in 1992 that resulted in the firing of coach Don Monson. There is some media speculation in Oregon about whether this might be it for 12th-year coach Ernie Kent, who is 219-157 with the Ducks but has had just one winning Pac-10 record the last six years.
It was the sixth straight win for WSU over Oregon and the second straight season the Cougars beat them three times, including in the Pac-10 tournament.
Stanford 62, Oregon St. 54
Shortly after getting the first win for a No. 9 seed since all 10 teams were added to the Pac-10 tournament in 2006, the Stanford Cardinal turned their attention to the Washington Huskies.
Stanford, which beat Oregon State 62-54, advanced to play the Huskies today at 2:30 p.m. and is hoping for a better result after two close games with UW in the regular season.
UW beat the Cardinal in both regular-season games this season, but neither came easily. In the first, on Jan. 8, UW needed a Jon Brockman putback with 4.6 seconds left to beat the Cardinal 84-83 in Seattle. In the second, on Feb. 8 in Palo Alto, UW rallied from an early 10-point deficit, then held off a late Stanford comeback to win 75-68.
“We have some confidence in knowing that [how close the first two games were],” said Stanford guard Mitch Johnson, a graduate of O’Dea High. “But we also know we have to finish the job and kind of match their level [of intensity] or exceed it. Both times when they turned up the pressure, we couldn’t handle it.”
They did Wednesday. After falling behind 28-21 at halftime, the Cardinal went on a 14-2 run to take the lead. OSU regained it once, but another Stanford run allowed the Cardinal (18-2) to pull ahead by eight and then hold off a late Beaver rally.
Guard Anthony Goods rebounded from a scoreless outing against OSU three weeks ago to lead the Cardinal with 23 points, 17 in the second half when he hit 3 of 4 three-pointers. OSU fell to 13-17.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com.