PULLMAN, Wash. -- You could hear the relief in the voices of Arizona players and interim coach Kevin O'Neill.
Desperate for a win, Chase Budinger scored 22 points and Jerryd Bayless had all 20 of his points after the half to help Arizona upset No. 17 Washington State 65-55 on Saturday night.
"We really needed to get a win. We played badly over in Seattle the other night and had a heartbreaking loss to Stanford at home," O'Neill said, referring to a 75-66 loss at Washington on Thursday and a 67-66 loss to the Cardinal last week.
"We were focused. We played great defense and we worked hard," O'Neill said. "We put ourselves in a position to win the game and then made some free-throws down the stretch."
Budinger kept the Wildcats in the game the first half, scoring 12 points, then Bayless exploded to seal the deal in the second.
"We all dug deep and we were all focused the last two days preparing for this game," Budinger said. "We just played hard on the defensive end."
Jordan Hill added 13 for the Wildcats (17-10, 7-7 Pac-10), who avoided a third straight loss. The Wildcats are trying to keep alive their streak of 23 straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
Taylor Rochestie scored 14 points, Derrick Low added 12, and Kyle Weaver had 10 for the cold-shooting Cougars, who hit just 17-of-50 (34 percent) of their shots.
Arizona, meanwhile, hit 23-of-46 shots, including 8-of-14 3-pointers to make several runs after the Cougars came close.
Arizona swept Washington State (21-6, 9-6) in the series. The Wildcats won 76-64 in Tucson on Jan. 24.
Arizona held a 24-23 lead at the half after Weaver missed a chance to tie with seven-tenths of a second when his second free-throw clanked off the rim.
Bayless opened the second half with a runner for his first points and made two 3s. The Wildcats made an 8-2 run to take a 46-39 lead midway through the period. Washington State got within range, trailing 55-51, when Budinger hit a 3 with two minutes remaining and the Cougars never threatened again.
Bayless said his coach had some words with him at intermission because of bad shots during the first half, when he was 0-for-3.
"He really stepped up in the second half," Budinger said. "He hit some huge shots for us and hit free-throws down the stretch."
Washington State coach Tony Bennett was impressed by the play of Budinger and Bayless.
"That was two impressive performances," he said.
Bennett said his own players seemed flat.
"If you don't bring your 'A' game in this league against a team like Arizona, you're going to get beat," Bennett said. "They were desperate. They needed that win badly."
Aaron Baynes, the star of Washington State's 59-47 victory over Arizona State on Thursday, was held to just two points and three rebounds.
Arizona broke the Cougars' zone defense to score 65 points. Washington State is second nationally in team scoring defense, allowing just 55.2 points.
The Cougars hit just 7-of-25 shots in the first half, while Arizona improved on 9-of-21 shooting during the period.