Jan. 28, 2011
|Washington at Washington State Game Coverage|
|TV: FSN||Radio: Washington IMG College Network (950 AM-Seattle)|
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - The fun always starts in Pullman before the Huskies get off the bus.
Not for the game. For practice.
"They will come out, ready to go at us - not just their team, but their student section, their whole basketball community," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said before his team departed for Sunday night's nationally televised game between the 17th-ranked Dawgs (15-4, 7-1 Pac-10) and rival Washington State (14-6, 4-4) on WSU's Friel Court.
"And they will be waiting for us when we are getting off the bus -- when we're practicing."
At the shootaround hours before tipoff, right coach?
"No, the day before," Romar said, without laughing. "The last time we got off the bus for practice (on a Friday before a Saturday game last February), they were waiting for us."
Last year's UW-WSU game in Seattle was no picnic, either. The Cougars "came out and jumped on us right away," as Romar put it. There were words and taunts and dunks and eventually an intense, 92-64 win for the Huskies last Jan. 30.
"I know both teams bring it whenever we play," Romar said.
Fox Sports Net has the national television broadcast beginning at 7 p.m. Pacific Time Sunday. The Washington IMG College network has the radio call of the Huskies' attempt to go 8-1 in the Pac-10 for the first time since 1984, when Marv Harshman was their coach and Alvin Vaughn was their captain. And we'll have the live game chat, live stats and streaming audio as usual here on GoHuskies.com.
That's if we can hear ourselves think inside what the Huskies expect will be their most hostile setting this season.
WSU announced Thursday that fewer than 800 tickets remain for the 269th meeting of Huskies and Cougars, and Washington State may get its second sellout of the season inside its 11,566 arena.
"They can throw anything at you, in terms of taunts and everything else," senior inside force Matthew Bryan-Amaning said of Cougars fans.
Just the kind of atmosphere Isaiah Thomas loves.
"They're crazy," joked UW's star point guard and midseason candidate for national player of the year, who is 4-0 in his career against the Cougars.
The junior remembers, fondly and with a laugh, WSU students showing off signs the last time the Dawgs were there that poked fun at Thomas' days at Curtis High School outside Tacoma, Wash.
"Hopefully, (the signs) are good again this time," he said, smiling.
All signs are that Thomas' game will be.
"The bigger the game, the more focused he gets," Romar said of his fiery leader.
And, yep, Thomas is calling this one "a huge game."
Washington State has the conference's scoring leader, guard Klay Thompson at 22.2 points per game. Thompson is 6-feet-6, so UW's 6-6 senior wing and defensive ace Justin Holiday will likely defend him.
But maybe not for the entire game, given the way Thomas is playing at both ends. Arizona State's Ty Abbott had five inches on the 5-9 Thomas, yet Washington's guard shut down Abbott when assigned to him in the second half last Saturday. Romar called Thomas' defense on Abbott they key to UW's 88-75 victory.
Washington's surge to the top of the Pac-10 this month coincided with Thomas embracing his new point-guard role - embracing it like Oscar Robertson, that is. Thomas has maintained his team-leading scoring of a tick under 17 points per game while leading the conference in assists. This month he became the first NCAA player in five years to have 20 points and 10 assists in consecutive games.
He was just named the Pac-10 player of the week for the second time this season. And he has seven-plus assists in seven consecutive games.
Many of those assists are going to Bryan-Amaning near the basket, after Thomas darts into the lane and forces the defense to commit to challenging him. Bryan-Amaning, Thomas' former teammate at South Kent prep school in Connecticut before both got to Washington, is averaging 18 points and nearly 10 rebounds in his last 10 games.
Thomas fed him for a career-high 30 points in last Saturday's 88-75 home win over Arizona State. The high pick-and-roll above the free-throw line has become their pet play, one they starting using in prep school years ago.
"I think that's the hardest thing to guard in basketball. You see it in the NBA," said Thomas, who is a nightly hawk of pro games on TV.
"Me and Matt, it's things we've picked up from playing together so long."
Their act now moves into what promises to be a circus-like atmosphere at WSU. Throw in that Cougars point guard Reggie Moore is a pal of Thomas' and Romar had Washington State coach Ken Bone on his Huskies staff from 2002-05, and Sunday night's rivalry renewal will be rockin'.
"We're ready for everything," Thomas said.
REMEMBERING WILL HANCOCK
It's not often that members of the Sports Information community step out from behind the scenes, but this weekend SIDs across the nation would like to take a moment to remember the life and accomplishments of Will Hancock. One of the 10 Oklahoma State University personnel killed in a plane crash 10 years ago this week, Hancock served as the media relations director for the OSU men's basketball program. Will was a pillar of the sports information profession and an even better person. Those of us who were fortunate enough to know and work alongside Will still miss him to this day. A web page remembering Hancock and the others tragically taken can be found by clicking here.