PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) -- Ever since Washington State's magical season ended with a loss to Vanderbilt in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Derrick Low has been anxious to get back on the court.
He got his wish Friday night, as the 10th-ranked Cougars dismantled Eastern Washington 68-41 in the season opener for both teams."After Vanderbilt, we were eager to get back to it," said Low, who had 14 points. "We went right back to working out again. The time has come and we are excited to get the season going."Aron Baynes scored 15 points as Washington State (1-0) played before a sellout crowd of nearly 12,000, which more than anything reflected the new buzz around a once-moribund program.Washington State, which a few years ago was averaging less than 3,000 fans per game, opened a season ranked in the Top 25 for the first time in its history, after going 26-8 last season.Short-handed Eastern Washington (0-1), with a new coach and mostly new players, didn't put up much of a fight.Washington State led 31-19 at halftime, then outscored the Eagles 14-2 in the first 6 minutes of the second half for a commanding 45-21 lead. Baynes had 10 points in that stretch.Eastern Washington shot just 29 percent for the game, despite making seven of 18 3-pointers. After losing scoring machine Rodney Stuckey to the NBA, they were led by Milan Stanojevic's 11 points. Kellen Williams, the only returning starter from last year, added nine points and six rebounds.The Eagles were just 6-of-26 on two-point attempts.Eastern Washington coach Kirk Earlywine had only eight players, and five were making their Division I debuts."They are as good as I thought they would be," Earlywine said of Washington State. "They hit the trifecta, they are old, experienced and well-coached."Washington State took a 15-5 opening lead. Two 3-pointers brought Eastern Washington within 18-11, but a 9-0 run by Washington State, including five points by Low, gave the Cougars a 26-11 lead.The Eagles managed to close within 12 points at halftime, in part because the Cougars shot just 44 percent in the first half.But Baynes led the charge to open the second half that sank the visitors from the Big Sky Conference."Our guys stretched out the defense and made it easy for me," Baynes said.Robbie Cowgill added 13 points and seven rebounds for the Cougars, who finished the game shooting 50 percent.Washington State's Tony Bennett, last year's AP national coach of the year, acknowledged that Eastern Washington was undermanned."I don't want to read too much into the first game," Bennett said. "For a first game, I thought it was good. I liked our alertness defensively."It is the first time the schools, which are only 70 miles apart, have played since 1998.Eastern, with half its players from Washington, is 11-51 against Washington State, which has only one player from the state on its roster.