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January 20, 2007Every walk of life has its outlandish aspects and the Apple Cup hoop series between rivals Washington and Washington State is no different - but this time, even the outlandish seems outlandish. The Cougar men's basketball team, needing a win to possibly legitimize themselves in the eyes of Associate Press pollsters who inexplicably dropped them from their poll last week after a Bay Area road split issued an outlandish statement on Saturday. That statement read: WSU 75, Washington 47. The win gave Wazzu - still ranked 21st in one national poll - their largest margin of victory ever in the 97-year hoop series, surpassing the Cougars' 49-22 win in 1932 when court namesake Jack Friel was head coach - over the reeling Huskies who played without super-frosh Spencer Hawes [due to injury and illness].
The victory also gave the Cougars their first three-game winning streak in the series since 1995 and moved them up to third place in the Pac-10 at 5-2 with an overall record of 16-3 and will likely improve their all-important official RPI upwards from 23, where it was last week.
As usual, the offense was again a team effort as three Cougars reached double figures in scoring, led by junior Derrick Low with 20 points, followed by fellow junior Kyle Weaver with 17 and senior Ivory Clark with 10. Redshirt sophomore Taylor Rochestie, just missed joining the double figure club, chipping in nine mostly second-half points. Weaver led the Cougars in rebounding with eight while Robbie Cowgill brought down six boards.
The Cougars once again followed their recent M.O. and got off to a fast start, jumping out to a 10-3 lead after the first media timeout, slowly building that lead for the early minutes. But Washington made a brief run to close the gap to 17-12 and the boisterous sell-out crowd was in a lull until Rochestie hit a trey to re-ignite the energetic Cougars who clamped down on the Huskies on defense from there onward. Wazzu continued to pull away as Weaver blew by Husky Phil Nelson for a crowd-loving dunk and Clark followed up by juking Husky Jon Brockman for an easy deuce. A short spate of threes by Husky guard Ryan Appleby ultimately helped to close the gap to 34-23 by halftime, but that 23 points was the lowest halftime point total the Huskies had scored so far this season.
The Cougars came out hot in the second half and blistered the Huskies with a 15-4 run that effectively put the game away and was emphasized by a dunk from Clark off an assist by Weaver and a block of a Nelson shot by Clark that threatened to sail all the way to Othello. After Low hit on four consecutive shots to bump the lead to 49-27, the Cougars put it in cruise control and were able to get some end-of-game playing time for Arlen Plaister, Jeremy Cross and Antonio Chavers - with Cross scoring his first conference points of the season.
The Huskies were led by 16 points from Quincy Pondexter.
With their 16th win, the Cougars have officially clinched their first winning season in 11 years and Wazzu will next host Oregon State in Pullman.
The Cougars next take on Oregon State on Thursday, January 25 at 7pm in Pullman and then meet Oregon on Saturday, January 27 at 7pm in Pullman.
CougZone contributor Dan Olson contributed to this article.
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