For long minutes Sunday, the Apple Cup of basketball was a mighty ugly game.
Washington and Washington State clanged brick after brick and fumbled turnover after turnover.
It quickly seemed like this would be one of those games where the first team to right itself would be the one that would win.
And that’s what happened, as the Cougars put together a run at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second on their way to an 80-69 win. The game at Hec Edmundson Pavilion played out before a sellout crowd of 10,000, which included a notable presence of fans from both schools.
“To compete in this gym you have to be locked in and focused,” WSU coach Ken Bone said. “And I think our guys were exactly that.”
It was Washington’s first home loss of the season and ended a streak of 14 straight home wins by 10 or more.
“Well, obviously that’s not how we scripted it,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. “Give Washington State a lot of credit. They came in and played a good ballgame. The first half they were changing defenses, and we were standing around way too much. We forced them into 10 turnovers, we had nine turnovers. We were shooting 22 percent, they were shooting 30 percent. So it wasn’t a real clean half.”
WSU took at 24-17 halftime lead, and Washington’s total was the lowest in any first half over the nine seasons that Romar has coached the Huskies.
What Romar called a pivotal time in the game came early in the second half, when DeAngelo Casto was fouled, continued with his shooting motion and the shot went in. The officiating crew ruled continuation and allowed the basket. Romar protested and was given a technical foul for straying too far from the bench area.
By the time it all played out, the Cougars were up 38-23 – and that 15-point margin looked like a mountain given the Huskies’ trouble scoring.
However, the home team finally found one desperate run in it, and that cut WSU’s margin to 65-59 about four minutes from the end.
That finally got the home crowd back into the game, but the Cougars weathered the storm.
“I thought our guys continued to play aggressive,” Bone said. “We had a couple of turnovers down the stretch where maybe we were a little bit on the passive side. (But) we caught it (and) we were continually looking to attack.”
The win moved Washington State to 18-10 overall and 8-8 in the Pacific-10 Conference.
The loss drops Washington to 19-9, and for the first time this season seems to slide the Huskies precariously onto the NCAA tournament bubble. UW also lost ground it could not afford in the Pac-10 race, falling to 10-6.
“It’s devastating,” UW senior Justin Holiday said. “It’s disappointing. You don’t want to lose at home when your back is already up against the wall. ... I think it will show what kind of team we are, how we answer to this. I know it might sound like a broken record, but we have to forget about this one and go to the next one.”
The next one for UW comes Thursday, when Pac-10 co-leader UCLA visits. Then the Huskies will close their regular season at home Saturday against USC.
The dates reverse for the Cougars, who will play host to USC on Thursday and UCLA on Saturday.
The win also gives the Cougs a sweep in the season series with UW, continuing a streak in which one team or the other has swept the Apple Cup of basketball every season since 2002-03.
Despite being the only team to sweep UW this season, Romar said he doesn’t see the Cougars as a particular matchup problem.
“Their strength is their perimeter, and we have a pretty good perimeter as well,” Romar said. “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.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 email@example.com