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Washington State uses strong second half to advance

Mar 16, 2007 - 12:53 AM SACRAMENTO, California (Ticker) -- In a span of just seconds, Washington State ended an upset bid by Oral Roberts and began what it hopes will be a long march through the NCAA Tournament.

The third-seeded Cougars used the momentum from a late first-half spurt to dominate the second half en route to a 70-54 victory over 14th-seeded Oral Roberts in the first round of the East Region.

Ivory Clark scored 19 points in a solid two-way game and Taylor Rochestie added 15 for Washington State (26-7), which had its patience tested for much of the first half but did not crack in its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 13 years.

"Give a lot of credit to Washington State," Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton said. "I think they showed in the second half why they are one of the best 10 or 15 teams in America. They executed, they made shots, they made it tough on us to score."

The Cougars led for just 18 seconds of the first half but trailed for just 19 seconds of the second half. They will face sixth-seeded Vanderbilt on Saturday.

"Obviously we were a bit shaky to begin with," Clark said. "Maybe it was tournament jitters. I think for the most part after we settled down and got our composure back, I think we did well."

Making their second straight appearance, the Golden Eagles (23-11) showed no nerves and rode the strong play of Ken Tutt to a surprising 28-22 lead in the final seconds of the first half.

Rochestie drove for a layup and Kyle Weaver stole the inbounds pass and dunked just before the buzzer, bringing a rise from the crowd at Arco Arena and demoralizing Oral Roberts.

"I went up to shoot and saw about seven hands in the air waiting to block the shot," Rochestie said. "I kind of had to hold off a little bit and then let it go at the end."

"I figured they wanted to try to hurry up and get it in and get another bucket before the half," Weaver said. "I just kind of hung around and read his eyes and then got the steal and went up for it and gave us a little boost. We came into the locker room excited. Coach even came in hyped."

Washington State began the second half with a 14-2 spurt, taking the lead for good. Derrick Low drained a pair of 3-pointers and Clark had a dunk and two free throws that gave the Cougars a 42-30 lead with 14 minutes to play.

"In the second half, we came out swinging," Weaver said.

"We were a little disappointed that we lost the lead at the end," Tutt said. "The guy hit a tough shot and they stole the inbounds play and basically they went in with all the momentum. They came out a little tougher than us (in the second half) and that really got them going."

Using the patient offense patented by his father Dick Bennett, coach Tony Bennett and the Cougars wore down the Golden Eagles, who got no closer than six points the rest of the way.

Low contributed 12 points and Weaver added 10 and eight rebounds for the Cougars, who shot 47 percent (27-of-57) from the field and committed just six turnovers.

Tutt scored 19 points and fellow senior Caleb Green added 13 and eight rebounds for Oral Roberts, which shot under 36 percent (19-of-53) and had 12 turnovers.

The 6-8, 255-pound Green averages nearly 21 points and nine rebounds. But he made just 4-of-16 shots and committed four turnovers as he was neutralized by the defense of Clark.

"You can't totally shut down a guy like Caleb Green, but Ivory did the best he could and really neutralized him and gave us a good chance in the second half," Rochestie said.

"They did what a top-15 program is supposed to do - they eliminated me basically offensively as a factor for the second half with their weak side help," Green admitted. "I think they guarded great."

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    ORAL ROBERTS 28 26 54

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