No. 7 Washington St. Tops Idaho St.

Monday, December 24th 2007, 7:49 am
By: News On 6

POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) _ Washington State is one win away from opening the season with 12 straight wins, a feat that would match the program's best start in 16 years.

Coach Tony Bennett has bigger things on his mind.

The fact the No. 7 Cougars are undefeated at this point in the season is fine. But Bennett insists he wants his team focused on the remaining nonconference game before a grueling Pac-10 season begins with three straight road games.

``I'm thankful for where our team is at,'' Bennett said Sunday after the Cougars (11-0) breezed by Idaho State 75-45.

``Of course we'd like to win as many as we can out of the gates. But it's got to be about quality for us. We know what we're going to face. I don't know if anything could prepare you for the Pac-10 this year,'' he said.

A Cougar victory over North Carolina A&T on Dec. 28 would match the string of 12 straight opening wins set by the 1991-92 team.

Then league play opens with the Cougars, who have only played three games in Pullman so far, traveling to Washington, USC and UCLA before returning home for a Jan. 17 matchup with Oregon State.

``Our plate is going to be full,'' Bennett said.

For now, so is the win column.

In the only other Top 25 game on Sunday, No. 22 Miami beat North Carolina A&T 95-64.

And the Cougars made it look easy Sunday.

Derrick Low scored 20 points and Kyle Weaver had 18 and the Cougars grabbed an early lead and never looked back.

What Bennett liked most was his team's quick start. Too often this season, the Cougars have come out aloof.

Low made sure that didn't happen with the offense.

After missing his first jumper, Low made his next five 3-pointers, the final one coming at the 5:51 mark to put the Cougars up 28-12.

``It's always good for a shooter to knock down his first few shots,'' said Low, who was 6-for-12 shooting. ``Because you get that confidence and you tend to be a little more aggressive. And you also look for your shot a little more.''

Weaver's turn came in the second half, when he scored seven of the Cougars' first 13 points to help put the game out of reach.

Weaver's 3-pointer at the 16:03 mark put the Cougars up 47-23 and the Bengals (2-8) failed to get much closer the rest of the way.

Washington State shot 48.8 percent for the game, hit 50 percent (8-for-16) from 3-point range and had 11 steals.

Caleb Forrest added 11 points and Taylor Richest added nine points and a game-high eight assists. The team played without forward Dave Harmeling, who fractured his right thumb in practice Friday and did not make the trip to Idaho. Harmeling, who averages 6.4 points but gives the Cougars a big inside presence, is out indefinitely, team officials said.

``It was important for us to play solid,'' said Bennett. ``We know we're not the kind of team that is going to blow people away if we're not playing at a high level. We know we can't take anyone lightly.''

For Idaho State, the game marked the second tough outing against a ranked Pac-10 team in eight days. The Bengals (2-8) lost by 40 points last weekend at No. 8 UCLA.

Still, hosting a game against a highly ranked team is a bit of a novelty in Pocatello. The last time Idaho State hosted a ranked team was 1982 when the Bengals lost to Idaho.

``I will be glad when we get into Big Sky play,'' said Bengals coach Joe O'Brien. ``Mentally right now, it is obvious this thing got away from us. We lost that energy and zip, and if you're not playing hard, you're not playing.''

The Bengals got 10 points from Matt Stucki, but struggled to find open shots against a stingy Cougars defense that allows 51.7 points.

Idaho State shot 38.6 percent and was just 4-for-12 of 3-point attempts.

No. 22 Miami 95, North Carolina A&T 64

Jack McClinton scored 17 points and host Miami defeated North Carolina A&T to stretch its season-opening winning streak to 12 games.

James Dews and Raymond Hicks each finished with 16 points for the Hurricanes, who are two games shy of the school record for victories to open a season set in 2001-02.

The Hurricanes opened the game on a 17-0 run in the first 5:07 and were never threatened. They shot a season-high 58 percent from the field to remain one of nine unbeaten Division I teams.

Down 45-25 at halftime, the Aggies (5-7) got no closer than 47-32 after James Porter's field goal 2:55 into the second half.