Cougars' defense sends Beavers to 14th straight loss

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) -- All along, Taylor Rochestie felt as if Washington State was making progress.

Rochestie scored a career-high 24 points, Derrick Low added 21 and the Cougars (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) put a three-game losing streak further behind them with a 70-57 win over Oregon State Thursday night.

"Even during the losing streak I felt we were getting better," Rochestie said. "Right now, we just want to play great basketball. This time of the year everyone is playing well."

The Cougars (19-5, 7-5 Pac-10) handed Oregon State its 14th straight loss, which ties the 1995-96 Beavers for the longest in team history.

Lathen Wallace had 13 points for the Beavers (6-18, 0-12 Pac-10). Marcel Jones added 10 points, all in the second half.

Washington State won its first 14 games and was ranked fourth in the country in late December but ran into trouble with three straight home losses, to Stanford, California and UCLA.

The Cougars rebounded with a 74-50 win over USC on Saturday.

Washington State coach Tony Bennett motivated his team before that game by writing "Now is the time" on a greaseboard and leaving the locker room without making a speech.

"During the losing streak we were playing great basketball," Bennett explained. "I just wanted to keep playing that kind of ball and get a little sounder."

The Cougars were sound against Oregon State, if a bit lethargic out of the gate. The Beavers hung in for the first 10 minutes.

The game was tied at 18, but the Cougars went on a 11-3 run before halftime. The Beavers shot just 22.2 percent in the first half, making only one field goal in the last 10 minutes.

"You can't go six or seven minutes without a field goal and expect to win," Oregon State interim coach Kevin Mouton said.

Robbie Cowgill and Aron Baynes had nine points for the Cougars, who entered the game holding opponents to 55.5 points a game, third best in the nation. They held the Beavers to 32.1 percent shooting for the game.

The Beavers focused their defense effort on stifling Baynes, the Cougars' big man, and he scored nine points before fouling out in the second half. But guards Low and Rochestie had success coming off screens and getting open looks.

Oregon State got as close as 37-31, on a 3-pointer from Wallace, but Low hit a 3 and the Cougars were off on a 10-4 run. They soon led 56-41. A healthy crowd of Washington State fans stood and applauded as the Cougars dribbled out the last few seconds of the game.

Kyle Weaver, the Cougars' second-leading scorer at 12.7 points a game, who had five points. He didn't score until 7:02 left in the game.

Rickey Claitt had nine points off the bench for Oregon State. Sean Carter had nine rebounds. The two teams combined to shoot 57 free throws.

"The rhythm of the game against Washington State is always slow and when the whistle is blown that much it's that much harder to get going," Jones said.

The Beavers have owned Washington State at Gill Coliseum in recent years, winning eight of the last nine matchups coming into the game, but the Beavers are enduring a nightmare season that has included the dismissal of sixth-year coach Jay John midseason and installation of assistant Mouton as interim coach.

Claitt said the losing streak hasn't been weighing on the team.

"The reason is that we prepare game by game," Mouton said.

Oregon State has been particularly ineffective at home, where their previous four conference losses have come by an average margin of 19.3 points.

The Cougars beat Oregon State 69-46 Jan. 17 in Pullman, Wash., four days before John was fired.