LOS ANGELES - According to the cliché, it's difficult for one team to beat another three times in a single season.
Washington hopes that’s true, and Washington State hopes it isn’t, as the rivals prepare to meet tonight in the quarterfinals of the Pacific-10 Conference men’s basketball tournament at Staples Center.
And while UW coach Lorenzo Romar joked Tuesday that the three-win cliché is just something sportswriters say, only a few minutes later one of his players was saying it too.
“One of the toughest things in sports to do – I think especially at the collegiate level – is beat a team three times in one season,” senior Matthew Bryan-Amaning said.
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Unfortunately for the Huskies, there’s little recent evidence that it’s true.
Just last season, Washington’s path to the Pac-10 tournament championship included third wins against Oregon State and Stanford.
And Washington State was ushered out of that same tournament with a third straight loss to Oregon.
“It didn’t seem to bother Oregon last year when they played us a third time and beat us,” WSU coach Ken Bone said this week. “Hopefully, we have the same fortunate success.”
In the two regular-season men’s basketball games, the Cougars beat the Huskies, 87-80, in Pullman on Jan. 30 and 80-69 in Seattle on Feb. 27.
And while Romar doesn’t believe in the cliché, he does believe in the importance of matchups – especially at tournament time.
Yet, he maintains that Washington State should pose no particular matchup problem for his team.
“They beat us, but I don’t think it’s a bad matchup,” he said after the home loss to the Cougs. “Their strength is their perimeter, and we have a pretty good perimeter, as well. They’ve got a big guy underneath that’s pretty good, and I think we have one that’s pretty good. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad matchup.”
Those matchups could juggle a bit tonight, with Washington losing a player or two, while WSU regains a player or two.
For UW, point guard Venoy Overton is out due to disciplinary suspension, while the status of forward Justin Holiday is uncertain after he suffered a concussion Saturday against USC.
“(Holiday) thinks he can play, so I think as a team we’re positive that he’s going to do everything in his power to play this weekend,” Bryan-Amaning said Tuesday. “But we’ve gone through this before: a lot of injuries happen throughout the course of this season. We just have to try to go out on the court and play with what’s available.”
For WSU, Klay Thompson returns after missing the Cougars’ final regular-season game due to a disciplinary suspension. Meanwhile, guard Reggie Moore is considered probable after suffering an ankle injury.
“I’m just looking forward to us getting out on the court again with Klay and Reggie and trying to compete the best we can like we did against Washington and USC last Thursday,” Bone said. “When we were in those games I thought we were playing some of our best basketball at the right time of year.”
They had better be. Bracketologists agree that Washington State cannot earn an NCAA tournament invitation without at least one win in this tournament.
There is less consensus about Washington, but the Huskies would like to add to their résumé in order to be more comfortable heading into Selection Sunday.
“It’s March,” Bryan-Amaning said. “You know everything that comes along with March. Every game feels like a tournament game. It’s March Madness and everybody loves it. Your adrenaline gets running. Just talking about it now, I’m getting butterflies in my stomach just thinking about it. And you just know that everything is there and everybody has to bring your ‘A’ game.”
Romar certainly would agree with him about that.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports
COUGARS VS. HUSKIES GAMEDAY
NO. 6 WASHINGTON STATE (19-11 OVERALL, 9-9 PAC-10) VS. NO. 3 WASHINGTON (20-10, 11-7)
8:30 p.m., Staples Center, Los Angeles
TV: FSN. Radio: 950-AM and 850-AM.
Season series: WSU swept the two meetings, 87-80 in Pullman on Jan. 30 and 80-69 in Seattle on Feb. 27. For WSU, Klay Thompson averaged 25.5 points while D’Angelo Casto averaged 15.5 points and 10.5 rebounds. For UW, Isaiah Thomas averaged 20 points and five assists.
Statistical leaders: For WSU – Thompson, 21.4 ppg; Reggie Moore, 3.5 apg; Casto, 6.8 rpg. For UW – Thomas, 16.6 points and 5.6 assists; Matthew Bryan-Amaning, 8.3 rpg.
Scouting report: Washington is the defending tournament champion, and Thomas is the reigning most outstanding player. No. 3 seeds are 10-3 all-time in the first round of this tournament, and last season the Huskies became the first third seed to win it. WSU is 1-1 as a No. 6 seed and 5-11 all-time in the tournament. UW has won five straight games in Los Angeles. WSU is 3-1 this season at neutral sites. UW guard Venoy Overton is out (disciplinary), and forward Justin Holiday (concussion) is probable. WSU’s Thompson returns after missing the previous game on disciplinary suspension, and point guard Reggie Moore (ankle) is probable. Each team has two players who won all-Pac-10 honors last week: Thomas and Bryan-Amaning for UW, Thompson and Casto (second team) for WSU. Washington’s C.J. Wilcox was named to the all-freshman team, and WSU’s Casto was named to the all-defensive team.
Next: The loser is eliminated. The winner advances to a semifinal game, meeting either No. 2 UCLA or No. 7 Oregon/No. 10 Arizona State at 8:30 p.m. today.
Other games today: Noon, No. 4 USC vs. No. 5 California; 2:30 p.m., No. 1 Arizona vs. No 9 Oregon St.; 6 p.m., No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 7 Oregon/No. 10 Arizona State.
Don Ruiz, staff writer