It’s basketball’s version of Apple Cup week and not even injuries to both women’s basketball teams can quash the excitement — among fans. Players and coaches on both rosters are trying not to get too amped.
First-year Washington coach Kevin McGuff really can’t since he wasn’t part of the Huskies’ 32-game win streak. And WSU? Well, it’s hard to do a lot of jawing when you’ve lost 32 consecutive games. Not that the Cougars haven’t done their share in the past.
Instead, the story circles around WSU coach June Daugherty revitalizing the program. It’s not on the level of what Kelly Graves has done at No. 23 Gonzaga, but considering the struggle some great coaches faced in the Palouse, it’s admirable.
The matchup will air on ROOT Sports at 7:30 p.m. (PST).
I tackled the subject today, along with Everett Herald reporter Scott Johnson. He includes how Daugherty’s tough nonconference schedule helped WSU prepare for Pac-12 play.
“It probably allowed them to really identify some of the strengths and weaknesses of their team early on,” McGuff said of the Cougs schedule, which ranked 15th in the nation. UW inherited its light lineup from former coach Tia Jackson, but will play at Georgia Tech next season. “Play some of the teams they played, especially on the road, and you’re going to get exposed a little bit — in a positive way. It’s been good for them because they came out of nonconference and they’ve had a great start to Pac-12 play and that’s part of it.”
Like last season, many believe it’s WSU’s year to snap the streak. The Cougs were close at Hec Ed last season, but lost 65-48 at Beasley Coliseum. Posts Regina Rogers and Mackenzie Argens combined for 31 points and 14 rebounds while Charmaine Barlow had 10 boards and Marjorie Heard added nine points and five rebounds off the bench.
This year, though, Heard (knee) is out and Rogers (hamstring) is a game-time decision. Does that make a difference in your pick? Vote here what you think will happen in Round I.
“It’s important to distinguish the difference between motivation and playing your game,” Daugherty said of the rivalry. “Not make Penn State or Washington bigger than they are. Sometimes I think players get away from that and they get caught up too much into not keeping their focus on winning ball games. Yeah, it’s a bigger motivation game because it’s an in-state rival. We want to get back on the winning track and I’m sure they (UW) want to do the same.”