SEATTLE (AP) -- Robbie Cowgill came all the way to Washington
State from Austin, Texas, because coach Dick Bennett convinced him
that he could turn around the long-suffering Cougars' basketball
The Cougars showed their westside fans Thursday night that just
might be possible this season.
Randy Green scored 15 points and Cowgill had 14, leading
Washington State to a 69-42 victory over Utah in the Cougars' first
game at Key Arena, home of the NBA Seattle SuperSonics. The Cougars
have signed a three-season contract to play one game each year in
"Our goal is to get this program up to an elite status," said
Cowgill, a 6-foot-10 sophomore forward who now weighs 210 pounds
after arriving in Pullman at 180 last year. "That was coach
Bennett's major selling point. We want to turn this thing around
The Cougars (7-2) wrapped up their nonconference schedule in
impressive fashion against the Utes (6-4), notching their third win
in a row after a 14-point loss to No. 8 Gonzaga.
Washington State also ended an 11-game losing streak in its
series with Utah, winning for only the second time in 14 games
against the Utes.
The Cougars will open their Pac-10 season against Arizona and
Arizona State at home next week. They return to Seattle to face No.
9 Washington on Jan. 7.
Cowgill hopes the Cougars sent a strong message to the Huskies:
"Tonight, I think we showed the whole Pac-10 that we're a force to
be reckoned with."
Derrick Low added 10 points for the Cougars, hitting a pair of
Luke Nevill, a 7-foot-1 freshman center from Australia, came off
the bench to lead Utah with 10 points, all in the second half.
Green gave the Cougars a 29-point lead -- 43-14 -- when he made a
four-point play to open the second half. He hit a 3-pointer and
made a foul shot after being fouled by Shaun Green.
The Cougars led 39-14 at halftime, after a 13-0 run that
featured two 3-pointers by Josh Akognon put them ahead 23-7 with
8:32 left. The Utes shot just 6-for-16 in the first half.
Cowgill scored Washington State's first 10 points in the first
6:19 and wound up with a dozen in the opening half.
He said he's just starting to hit his stride after missing the
first three games of the season with a cracked right clavicle
suffered in practice before the season got under way.
Bennett thought so, too. In fact, he called it Cowgill's best
game as a member of the Cougars.
"He looked stronger than ever tonight," Bennett said.
The Utes managed just 36 shots and 14 field goals in the game.
Utah coach Ray Giacoletti was distressed by his team's showing.
"Until you have some fire and passion in you, it doesn't matter
what you do," he said. "Right now, we don't. We're not looking
for spurts. We're looking for 40 minutes."
The 42 points by Utah was its lowest total since the Utes scored
41 against UNLV on March 14, 2003.
The Utes had a 29-6 record and reached the regional semifinals
in last season's NCAA tournament, but lost The Associated Press
Player of the Year, 7-foot sophomore center Andrew Bogut, to the
NBA. Bogut was the first pick in the NBA draft by the Milwaukee
It was the first meeting ever between the 62-year-old Bennett
and Giacolletti. Bennett hasn't said when he's going to retire from
coaching, but it could be this season. Then his son, Tony, a
Cougars assistant, would step up to take his place.
Bennett arrived in Pullman three seasons ago, taking over a
program that was 7-20 in 2002-2003. He previously coached at
Wisconsin, Wisconsin-Green Bay and Wisconsin-Stevens Point, guiding
Wisconsin to the Final Four in the 1999-2000 season.
Bennett said he likes Washington State's decision to play games
in Seattle. Thursday night's crowd was 5,496.
"On my fund-raising and promotional visits here, I always had
the feeling that these folks would be behind us," he said.
In attendance at the game was Seattle Seahawks center Robbie
Tobek, who played college football at Washington State.