No. 19 Texas A&M and No. 22 Washington meet tonight in the concluding game of this season's Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series, but bragging rights already have been settled.
The Big 12 leads 9-2 heading into the finale, which tips off at 8 p.m. at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
One of those Pacific-10 Conference defeats belongs to the Huskies, who lost in overtime at Texas Tech on Dec. 3. However, coach Lorenzo Romar said there is no particular pressure on his Huskies to beat the only currently ranked team remaining on their schedule.
“Each game is very important,” he said. “I’m not downplaying the situation, but if we take a team with a 330 RPI you may say, ‘Oh, yeah, well that one’s no big deal.’ Lose it, and it becomes a big deal. So every one of these is so big regardless of who the opponent is. Now, obviously we don’t have (a win over a ranked team) on our so-called résumé at this point; so this particular game, that’s the challenge.”
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Officially, Washington has played only one ranked team this season, losing to Georgetown, 74-66, when the Hoyas were ranked 15th in The Associated Press poll.
Texas Tech moved into the rankings after beating the Huskies; and Portland – which UW routed, 89-54, on Saturday – had spent one week in the rankings earlier this season.
Over the longer term, Washington has lost eight in a row against ranked nonconference foes since beating No. 12 Louisiana State on Dec. 20, 2006.
UW is 0-2 this season against opponents from the so-called major conferences: Tech of the Big 12 and Georgetown of the Big East. And with only two nonconference games remaining after tonight – San Francisco and Seattle University, both of the West Coast Conference – the Aggies represent Washington’s last chance for a high quality out-of-conference win.
“We’re definitely due for one,” sophomore guard Scott Suggs said. “We haven’t sh owed out so well against the other big names. (Tonight) we want to come out and show everybody what we’re capable of.”
That doesn’t figure to be easy.
Texas A&M (9-2) lost to then-eighth-ranked West Virginia and New Mexico by a combined 10 points.
Three seniors in the Aggies’ starting five – Donald Sloan, Derrick Roland and center Bryan Davis – were on the roster two seasons ago when they beat Washington, 77-63, in the NIT Season Tip-Off at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
“They had some good inside players, but their two guards – Sloan and Roland – I thought really took care of their team in that game and they made big plays and hit big shots,” Romar said. “And they were sophomores. Now they’re seniors, along with Dash Harris their other guard, and they’ve got their 5-11 guard B.J. (Holmes) coming off the bench. Their perimeter is really good, and they can shoot the ball and they’re quick.”
However, Washington played one of its best games of the season on Saturday against the previously ranked Pilots.
And Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon said he expects his team to be challenged in just its second road game.
“We had a nice win at SMU, but that was a long time ago,” he said. “For us to get where we want to be, we have to be a good road team. You do that with defense and rebounding and executing. … Washington is really talented. They have good basketball players, and they are really good in the building.”
This is the third season of the Hardwood Series. In 2007, the Pac-10 won, 7-5, and last season the conferences split 12 games.
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