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Baynes, defense helps Washington State remain unbeaten

Jan 6, 2008 - 7:07 AM SEATTLE (Ticker) -- Washington State once again relied on its defense and got just enough offense down the stretch to remain unbeaten.

Aron Baynes scored 16 points and Kyle Weaver added 13 and eight rebounds as fourth-ranked Washington State got past Washington, 56-52, in the Pac-10 Conference opener for both teams on Saturday.

Derrick Low chipped in 11 points for the Cougars, who won their sixth straight game against their in-state rival. The Cougars are also now four wins away from matching the best start in school history, which was 17-0 set during the 1914-15 season.

"Very hard-fought (game), you guys saw that," Cougars coach Tony Bennett said. "Washington has certainly improved defensively this year. It was a hostile environment. It was what we thought it would be.

"But (our defense) really carried us late, our guys made some big plays. These guys have played a few Pac-10 games, and I think that experience helped."

Washington State (13-0, 1-0 Pac-10) came into the game ranked first in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 49.7 points per game. However, the Cougars scored just 17 points at the half as the Huskies held a three-point lead.

Despite shooting 58 percent (14-of-24) in the second half, the Cougars trailed through the early stages of the final 20 minutes before going on a short spurt to take control.

Trailing, 48-45, with 6:20 remaining, Washington State went on an 8-0 run - keyed by a 3-pointer from Low - to take its largest lead of the second half at 53-48 with 3:05 left.

The Huskies battled back, cutting the deficit to 53-52 with 28 seconds left, but Jon Brockman missed the second of two free throws that would have tied the game. After Weaver made one of two free throws for the Cougars, Brockman missed a turnaround jumper and Weaver made two attempts from the stripe with 15 seconds to play, capping the scoring.

"The last five minutes, there was a timeout and I said, 'All we can do is to make them work to get contested shots for the rest of the game and let's try to just get quality shots,'" Bennett said. "As simple as that sounds, that is kind of our philosophy in a nutshell."

Washington State improved to just 2-13 all-time when opening conference play on the road, with both wins coming at Washington.

After Washington scored the first basket of the game, Washington State scored the next eight points to take a six-point lead with 12:36 left in the half. The Huskies then answered with a 15-2 run to take a 17-10 advantage with under five minutes left in the first and held on for a 20-17 lead at the break.

Washington State made just 6-of-23 attempts (26 percent) from the floor in the first half.

"We struggled in the first half offensively, no question," Bennett said. "We just were stagnant. We couldn't get into our stuff - partly due to their pressure, partly due to our offense, but our defense held us in there."

Daven Harmeling's 3-pointer tied the game at 35-35 with 11:13 remaining and the teams then traded baskets before Low's layup gave the Cougars their first lead of the second half at 45-43 with 7:44 left. Washington responded by scoring the next five points, but it would be its last lead of the game.

Tim Morris had 16 points and Brockman added 14 and 17 rebounds for the Huskies (9-5, 0-1), who had their six-game winning streak snapped.

Washington continues conference play on Thursday, when it visits No. 5 UCLA.