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Originally published Saturday, January 3, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Basketball | WSU women hope to snap 26-game skid vs. UW

Washington State, off to a fast start in women's basketball, wants to end the Huskies' domination of them starting with today's Pac-10 opener.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Today

Washington State women @ Washington, 1 p.m., FSN

Washington State coach June Daugherty isn't above sending reporters thanks for coverage or text messages to point out statistics.

So, when she heard guest broadcaster Sheryl Swoopes ramble on about Washington's 26-game women's basketball win streak against WSU on a FSN telecast this week, Daugherty had to restrain herself.

"I felt like calling her on the phone and saying, 'Did you know that 25 of those [UW wins] are mine?' " said Daugherty, joking.

But there was a tinge of seriousness in the coach's voice days after the comment by Swoopes, a Storm guard. Daugherty, fired by Washington in 2007, now coaches in the Palouse and has the Cougars (7-4) off to their best nonconference start since 1995. And today's Pac-10 opener against the Huskies (4-6) at Edmundson Pavilion might be the first real women's basketball "Apple Cup" battle between the schools.

In the past, it was a "gimme" win for Washington, which leads the series 38-2. The last WSU win was a 72-67 decision in Pullman in 1995, when Chris Gobrecht coached the Huskies.

"Records are made to be broken, and we'd like to break that record," said Daugherty. "That's part of our focus coming in. It's such a big game for a lot of reasons."

Daugherty and Washington coach Tia Jackson aim to use this Pac-10 season to show their imprints on their programs. Both are in their second seasons at their schools and believe they're past the turmoil of firings, transfers and skepticism.

"There's no need to look in the rearview mirror. That's not the way to drive," Daugherty said. "That's where I'm at, and it almost seems like a long time ago because of all the work and fun we've had in our first 16 months over here."

Daugherty is trying to get the Cougars to shake the losing mindset. She had success at Washington, where her teams made six NCAA tournament appearances in 11 seasons and reached the Elite Eight in 2001.

Jackson wants her Washington program to stack wins in the postseason, and has signed top-20 recruits like Oklahoma product Liz Lay, a 6-foot-1 forward, and Kristi Kingma, a 5-10 guard from Mill Creek.

Jackson kept the Daugherty tradition of a tough nonconference schedule, playing No. 1 Connecticut, then-No. 18 Kansas State, and highly regarded Gonzaga and Florida State. Washington is ranked 21st nationally in strength of schedule, Washington State 284th. Daugherty plans to book tougher competition.

Yet WSU, with a freshman-dominated roster, enters conference play brimming with confidence because of the easy wins.

Washington, meanwhile, has been hurt by losses to Weber State (77-66) and Northern Colorado (65-63), as well as an historic 58-point defeat to UConn and a late-game collapse against Gonzaga.

"It gets a little frustrating to lose," Washington senior guard Michelle Augustavo said. "But I'd rather play a really tough preseason to be out there with the best players in the country — that's huge for us. You just have to sit back and look at who you're playing and how well you competed with such a young team. It's only going to help us for when we start Pac-10."

From All-Americans to playing a four-guard lineup, the Huskies have seen it all.

And that 26-game win streak against WSU is theirs to build upon.

"One of the things I admire about Tia is that she's not afraid to take on tough competition to get to the level she aspires," said UW athletic director Scott Woodward. "We're going to be patient with her and give her the support she needs."

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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