WSU to take on Montana State in fourth annual Cougar Hardwood Classic - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather

WSU to take on Montana State in fourth annual Cougar Hardwood Classic

PULLMAN, Wash. - After a historic 2007-2008 season, the Washington State Cougars will look to build on their recent success in the 2008-2009 campaign. A major step in that process will take place on Saturday December 13th at Seattle's KeyArena as the Cougars take on the Bobcats from Montana State University in the 4th Annual Cougar Hardwood Classic.

Northwest Sports & Entertainment is excited to announce the return of what is quickly becoming one of the top neutral site college basketball games in the West Coast. In just the three year history of the Cougar Hardwood Classic, the attendance has nearly tripled to the 12,000 fans who witnessed the exciting action from a year ago.

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WHAT: Men's NCAA Division 1 basketball, 2008 Cougar Hardwood Classic
WHO: Washington State University Cougars vs. Montana State University Bobcats
WHEN: December 13th, 2008 Time TBD
WHERE: KeyArena
305 Harrison Street
Seattle, WA 98109
TICKETS: Ticketmaster general on-sale date is scheduled for September 6th
Also reaching new heights over the past three years has been the Washington State basketball program. The Cougars have won a school record 26 games in back to back seasons and in 2008 advanced to the regional semifinals for the first time in school history.

Due to the major success over the past two seasons, expectations have risen to a whole new level for the Cougars. Head Coach Tony Bennett and company will enter Seattle looking to meet those expectations despite losing two of the best players in WSU history.

Gone from a year ago will be star guards Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver. The two led the team in scoring, averaging 14.1 and 12.2 points per game respectively. Both players earned Pacific-10 All-Conference honors for the second-straight season and scored more than 1,000 points in their 4 year careers at WSU.

While those two stars will be missed, WSU has the pieces in place to reload instead of rebuild. Two starters return in Taylor Rochestie and Aron Baynes along with a top reserve in Daven Harmeling, who figures to start.

Baynes was named a Pacific-10 All-Conference honorable mention and finished tied for third on the team with 10.4 points per game. The center also led the team with 6.0 rebounds per game and was second on the team in blocks during his junior season.

Rochestie was one of the top breakout players in the country, doubling his output in nearly every statistical category. The guard led the team in assists with 4.7 per game and was tied with Baynes for third on the team with 10.4 points per game.

Also added to the 2008-2009 Cougar team will be Bennett's best recruiting class, led by the Washington State Player of the Year DeAngelo Castro. The star forward from Ferris High School heads a recruiting class that has been ranked in the top 30 in the country. With the key returners and the significant additions, the Cougars look to be a Pac-10 Conference title contender again.

Opposing the Cougars in the 4th Annual Cougar Hardwood Classic will be the Montana State Bobcats from the Big Sky Conference. Head Coach Brad Huse and his team finished the 2007 season 15-15 with impressive non-conference victories coming over Boise State and Wyoming.
Like the Cougars, the Bobcats will be coming into the new season without their top scorers from a year ago. Graduating from last year's team is 6'1" guard Carlos Taylor, the Big Sky's scoring champion from a season ago. Averaging 18.1 points per game, Taylor became the first Bobcat to lead the conference in scoring since the 1996-1997 season.

Despite losing Taylor, the Bobcats have a promising future. Leading the way will be center Divaldo Mbunga.

Mbunga had a very successful junior season, finishing second on the team in scoring with 12.0 points per game and first in rebounding with 5.5 per contest. The Angola native earned All-Big Sky honors.

The Cougars and Bobcats last played on November 19, 2004 in Pullman and WSU gained a victory by the score of 59 to 42.

Washington State is 3-0 all time in Cougar Harwood Classics games. During last year's contest, Tony Bennett and company were ranked 7th in the country and showed why they deserved that high ranking by defeating The Citadel 67-45. Aron Baynes and Daven Harmeling led the way for WSU with 16 and 11 points, respectively. In the first two Cougar Hardwood Classic games, WSU scored wins over San Diego State and Utah.

Including games at the University of Washington, the Cougars have won the last 6 games they have played in Seattle.