Cougars to UW: It's our state
The homemade sign from a Washington State fan in the front row stared at the Huskies from the opening tipoff until the game's merciful conclusion...
Seattle Times staff reporter
PULLMAN -- The homemade sign from a Washington State fan in the front row stared at the Huskies from the opening tipoff until the game's merciful conclusion: "Whose state? Our state."
And any doubt as to the validity of that claim was put to rest as the host team turned in a performance that made it abundantly clear when it comes to men's basketball, the Cougars are the new No. 1 in the state.
"I would think so," said Washington State senior forward Ivory Clark after the Cougars' 75-47 victory over the Huskies at Friel Court in front of 11,618, the largest crowd in Pullman since 1983.
It was Washington State's third straight victory over the Huskies, and the Cougars' widest margin of victory in the 261-game history between the two rivals in a series that started in 1910. Coupled with a win last month over Gonzaga and a 16-3 overall record and the Cougars -- just three months ago picked for last in the preseason Pac-10 media poll -- have an unmatched résumé in the state.
"This is why we worked so hard, to get a little bit of respect," Clark said. "I definitely think by beating these schools we'll get a little more notoriety in the state. It hurts us to come to school and see people wearing Gonzaga stuff."
It was the Huskies they undressed Saturday, however, handing UW its worst loss since an 89-57 defeat at Arizona State on Jan 9, 2003, Lorenzo Romar's first year as Washington's coach.
The Cougars did it with a stifling defensive effort that held the Huskies to their fewest points since a 67-47 loss to Gonzaga on Dec. 11, 2001, Bob Bender's last season as coach.
Washington's cause was undoubtedly harmed Friday afternoon when freshman center Spencer Hawes suffered a sprained left ankle as practice in Seattle was concluding. Hawes thought it was just a little tweak, but by the time the team got to Pullman that night, the injury had worsened. He tried to loosen it up enough to play during warmups but couldn't and could do nothing but watch as the Huskies fell to 11-7 overall and 1-6 in Pac-10 play.
Players and coaches on both sides conceded that Hawes would have made a difference. But not necessarily 28 points' worth.
"Right now, I'm not going to make any excuses about anything that happened," said Washington forward Jon Brockman. "They were the better team. They were better by 40 points, 50 points tonight, flat out."
The game was pretty much over before it started as the Huskies never led and were tied only once at 3-3. It was 17-12 when the Cougars went on a 15-0 run, holding the Huskies scoreless from the 11:26 mark to the 2:36 mark, during which time Washington was 0 for 8 from the field with six turnovers.
The Cougars flummoxed UW's offense with a defensive scheme designed around trapping Washington's big men and making them give up the ball.
"We definitely wanted to force the issue defensively," said WSU guard Kyle Weaver, saying the Cougars practiced almost nothing but defense this week after losing at Stanford a week ago.
"We felt we slipped a little bit defensively against Stanford," Weaver said.
The Huskies cut their deficit to 34-23 at halftime. But the Cougars used three three-pointers by Derrick Low to go on a 15-4 run to open the second half and put the game away. Low broke out of a mini-shooting slump to lead all scorers with 20 points, hitting 5 of 7 three-pointers.
The Cougars improved to 5-2 in Pac-10 play and seem on a clear path to their first NCAA tournament berth since 1994.
The Huskies, meanwhile, would have to win nine of their last 11 games just to get to 10-8 in conference play. No Pac-10 team has ever been invited to the NCAA tournament with a worse conference record.
"Any way you slice it, you are 1-6," Romar said. "The L's continue to mount. You've just got to make sure our team stays together and does not lose its confidence."
Brockman, told that much of Seattle is probably writing off the Huskies for this season, defiantly said the Huskies aren't dead yet.
"Whoever wants to write us off, go ahead and write us off because we will be back," Brockman said. "I'm not going to jump off a cliff or throw in a white towel. Washington basketball is not down. It's not. We've just got some work to do."
Washington freshman forward Quincy Pondexter, who led the Huskies with 16 points, voiced a similar sentiment.
"It's not over," he said. "We have a lot of games to play and we are learning. Washington State came out and played a great game. They are a really good team. But we are going to keep getting better. We are going to pull through."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Percentages: FG .283, FT .733. Three-point goals: 6-18, .333 (Appleby 3-9, Pondexter 2-3, Dentmon 1-1, Gasser 0-2, Nelson 0-3). Team rebounds: 7. Blocked shots: 0. Turnovers: 12 (Wallace 2, Pondexter 2, Nelson 2, Gasser, Appleby, Oliver, Brockman, Dentmon). Steals: 1 (Appleby). Technical fouls: None.
Attendance: 11,618. Officials: Bill Vinovich, Michael Eggers, Tim Gabutero.
|The Cougars are in the hunt for the Pac-10 championship.|