for this game

Rochestie guides Washington State into Pac-10 semis

Mar 9, 2007 - 8:33 AM PULLMAN, Washington (Ticker) -- Even though Washington State is assured of an NCAA Tournament berth, the team hardly looks complacent.

Taylor Rochestie scored 20 points, including 11 down the stretch, to lift the 12th-ranked Cougars to a 74-64 victory over intrastate rival Washington in a quarterfinal game of the Pacific-10 Conference Tournament.

Derrick Low added 17 points as Washington State (25-6) beat the Huskies for the third time this season and won 25 games for just the third time in school history.

"Our first win in a conference tournament, that's significant," Cougars coach Tony Bennett said. "Playing the state rival ... it's good that we can do that but we wanted the winner to go home and tally. This is just good preparation for the NCAA Tournament and this is the second stage."

The second-seeded Cougars will face Southern California in the semifinals on Friday. USC beat Stanford, 83-79, in overtime.

With top-seeded UCLA losing to California earlier Thursday, Washington State becomes the favorite to win its first Pac-10 championship since the 1940-41 season, when it lost in the NCAA title game.

"Tonight the better team won," Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said. "They did a nice job. They just kept grinding."

The Cougars entered with an 8-1 record when trailing at halftime and they quickly erased a 36-32 deficit at the break and forged a 50-43 lead on a follow shot by Robbie Cowgill with 12:18 to play.

Washington (19-13) slowly chipped away at the lead and finally pulled even at 54-54 with just under eight minutes left.

Rochestie took over from there, scoring 11 points in the final 5:43, including a backbreaking 3-pointer for a 68-62 lead with 1:28 to go.

"Our guys kept our composure, we came up with stops when we needed to," Bennett said. "We weren't great but scored enough and when we're playing well and sharing the ball we have some weapons, we're not just a one-man team.

"I thought the guys wanted it. Down the stretch our guys had a lot of life and fought hard and that was enjoyable because it's tough to beat a team like that three times."

One key for Washington State was shutting down Ryan Appleby, Washington's top 3-point shooter. Appleby connected on three shots from the arc late in the first half as the Huskies led by as many as seven points, but he missed all four 3-point attempts in the second half.

"Appleby was 3-of-3, he had nine points at the half and I see he didn't score in the second half," Bennett said. "We, a couple of times, lost track of him, and you can't lose track of a guy with that quick of a release. When their guards play well and they are stretching you out, they're a heck of a team to play against."

Freshman Quincy Pondexter scored 15 points and Jon Brockman added 13 for the Huskies, who had advanced to the tournament's title game twice in the past four seasons.

"Washington State played a solid game," Romar said. "They played like a veteran team and never got rattled."