Dawgs And Cats On The Floor, Mostly Pals Off It
Jan. 14, 2012
TV: ROOT Sports/FSN (Steve Physioc, Ernie Kent, Rebecca Haarlow-sidelines)
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE - Lorenzo Romar, his assistants and about half their Huskies players were walking off a flight from Denver last week when a mini reunion broke out in the concourse of Salt Lake City's airport.
A couple of gates from where UW arrived for last weekend's game at Utah, Ken Bone and his Washington State Cougars were waiting to board their flight out to Denver for a game the next day at Colorado.
Bone and Romar slapped hands and backs. Players in black-and-purple Washington sweat suits warmly greeted those in crimson-and-gray, WSU ones. They all swapped information on Utah, which the Cougars had played the night before, and Colorado, which the Huskies had just faced.
So, no, Sunday's 4 p.m. game between Washington (10-6, 3-1 Pac-12) and Washington State (9-7, 1-3) at Alaska Airlines Arena -- on ROOT Sports/Fox Sports Net nationally, the Washington IMG College radio network and here on GoHuskies.com with the exclusive game chat featuring courtside play by play, video and pictures -- won't be the first reunion of friendly rivals this season.
It will just be a far more competitive and intense one than their warm meeting in the Salt Lake airport. Alaska Airlines Arena is essentially sold out Sunday, for the first time this season.
Hardcore fans of each school may have been aghast at the chance scene in Utah on Jan. 6. But they should understand: these archrivals are as intertwined as they've ever been since first playing each other in men's basketball 102 years ago.
Heck, Romar and his wife Leona even spent some of their summer at the Bone family house on the Palouse.
"I've known Coach Bone since I was in college and we worked together. Connie, his wife, and my wife became really close friends. And their girls (Kendra, Jenae and Chelsea) they are awesome, I love his girls," Romar said Friday. "I always told him, `One day we are going to visit. We are going to come out and visit.' And that's what we did."
The coaches of this state's two Pac-12 teams are both 53, born six months apart in 1958. Bone, a native of Seattle who later played and coached at Seattle Pacific, spent 2002-05 as an assistant of Romar's during Lorenzo's first three seasons leading Washington.
It's been this way for a while, this Kumbaya between Huskies and Cougars in men's hoops. Romar was good friends with Tony Bennett before he became WSU's coach preceding Bone. And before that, the Cougars' coach was Bennett's father, Dick, another whom Romar genuinely respects and has known for decades.
All this doesn't mean it's any less competitive between these rivals, on the court or in recruiting.
"I think they are one of the most, if not the most, intense teams we play," Huskies shooting guard C.J. Wilcox said. "I mean, it's Wazzu. The rivalry. The fans. It's always intense."
When asked if Bone knowing Romar's system gives WSU and advantage against Washington, Romar said, "Well, it appeared that way last year, didn't it? They won two out of three."
That one Huskies win was a thriller at the start of the Pac-10 tournament last March. It propelled UW to its second consecutive conference tourney title and an automatic NCAA tournament berth, one that was anything but assured when that weekend began.
"I just think - advantage or disadvantage - Coach Bone is so good that he's going to find some type of advantage some kind of why, against whoever. He's a really good coach," Romar said of the man who is 2-3 against Washington and 47-35 overall in three seasons leading the Cougars.
Bone already has more Cougars wins than eight previous WSU coaches, six of which coached there at least two seasons.
Romar said in the three years since Bone arrived from Portland State to take over when Bennett left Washington State for Virginia he's transformed the Cougars' recruiting. Now, it is in direct competition with UW's, on the same regional and sometimes Seattle turf.
Seven of the 16 players on WSU's roster this season - including those that are redshirting - come from the greater Seattle area. That includes junior point guard and floor leader Reggie Moore.
"Absolutely (they've changed)," Romar said. "They do a lot more recruiting in the Northwest and on the West Coast. They weren't as strong in terms of their approach in the Northwest before Coach Bone and his staff got there. They've done a really good job in hitting it hard out here."
Yet Romar doesn't see that as making his life more difficult at UW.
"I've always believed here in the state of Washington there are enough players to go around," he said. "I have a lot of confidence in our program and in this university.
"There are some that we are going to not get, that go to Washington State or Gonzaga or Oregon or Oregon State - or UCLA or Arizona. But I still think there is enough to go around. So I don't see it as being a problem, even if they get players from here. We'll get our fair share of who we want, and they will get their fair share of who they want.
"I just know we don't always go after the same players, but we do at times. And you just know on both sides we are going to recruit the right way. I don't see them tearing us down with negative recruiting, and we don't do that to them."
Now once tipoff arrives Sunday? That's when the clawing and tearing down begins.
The Huskies' top two scorers are banged up entering Washington's 273rd meeting with Washington State dating to 1910.
Wroten said Friday his hip, elbow and tailbone are still hurting from a fall he took on a hard foul at the basket by Seattle University in Tuesday's rugged win. Yet he practiced for the second consecutive day on Friday, in the final full workout before Sunday's game.
"I think Tony will be fine," Romar said. "His tailbone and elbow have been bothering him, but I don't think to the point that he's not going to be able to play."
Wroten says his style of relentlessly driving the lane won't change because he's sore. His 17 points per game are third most among all Division-I freshmen.
"If I am able to play, I'm not going to change anything. I'm still going to play the same way," he said.
Wilcox has been playing through a hip injury for the last month. After initial help from anti-inflammatory medication, the hip has been getting worse. He missed practices this week.
The sophomore sharpshooter, averaging 15.5 points per game after a career-high 25 Tuesday, said he really feels it while getting out of bed each morning. He and UW's medical people still don't know exactly what the problem is in the joint.
"It's on and off. The more I do the more sore it gets," Wilcox said. "I know it affects my running, planting and jumping. I don't know if it affects my shooting."
Romar said there is a "slight chance" Wilcox won't be able to play Sunday.
"His hip has been bothering him for a little bit. He's been resting," Romar said. "We'll wait and see what happens on Sunday."
QUICK SHOTS: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who joined the team Monday a few weeks after finishing his freshman football season as the Huskies' starting tight end, could play Sunday. "It's just a matter of how much he learns, and how quickly he learns," Romar said of practices before tipoff. "We'll see." The 6-foot-6, 258-pound Seferian-Jenkins will serve a rebounding role and is expecting to provide increased physicality when he makes his college hoops debut. ... Speaking of links between UW and WSU: Washington will recognize legendary coach Marv Harshman as a Husky Legend during Sunday's first half. The 94-year-old Harshman, enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1985, is second all-time in coaching wins at UW after compiling a 246-146 record from 1972-85. The Huskies have a practice gym inside Hec Edmundson Pavilion named after him. He was also 155-181 leading Washington State from 1959-71, and 235-136 coaching Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash., from 1945-58.