Friendships put on hold for WSU-Gonzaga

SPOKANE–The basketball rivalry between WSU and Gonzaga is a heated one, but DaVonté Lacy says that won't have much impact on his relationship with GU's Gary Bell Jr. "It's one of those friendships that are never going to die," Lacy said. Well, except for about two hours tomorrow. "He's a good guy," Lacy said. "I'm glad he's my friend. But at (6 p.m.) Thursday, you don't have no friends."

Lacy and Bell, junior shooting guards who were longtime rivals growing up in the Puget Sound, could be matched up against one another much of the game (6 p.m. tip off, ROOT Sports).

Lacy leads the Cougars (2-0) with 24.5 points per game, including a career-high 28 in the season opener against Bakersfield (aka Cal State Bakersfield). Bell leads the 13th-ranked Bulldogs (3-0) with 17.3 points per game, including a career-high 24 against Colorado State.

"I've been watching him (on TV)," Lacy said, "and he's been playing really, really well. It's just a testament to the time he puts in. I see how hard he works in the off-season and stuff. It's what he's earned. He's going to be continue to be a great player, and he's going to be a great guy off the court."

Lacy and Bell both have engaging personalities. It's easy to see why they quickly became good friends when they played together at two high school all-star games after Bell said "we played against each other our whole lives."

Bell is also friends with WSU walk on guard Dominic Ballard, a former youth basketball teammate. Lacy starred at Curtis High in the Tacoma suburb of University Place when Bell was lighting it up for Kentridge in nearby Kent. Ballard played for Bothell.

Bell, known for his ferocious defensive play, tossed in eight 3-pointers against Colorado State.

"When he's on fire," teammate Gerard Coleman said, "it's going to take a lot of water to put him out."

Lacy is also a deadly shooter from 3-point range. He buried four treys and scored 22 points against No. 10 Gonzaga in a 71-69 loss last December in Pullman.

"Lacy – we know what he's capable of," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.

"I know DaVonte Lacy is going to be hungry as ever," Bulldogs forward-center Sam Dower Jr. said. "He's a really good guard."

Gonzaga has won 11 of the past 14 meetings with the Cougars but most of those games, like last year's, were closely contested.

"They always play us really, really hard," Few said. "Obviously, the game means a lot to them."

"It's really fun," said former Bainbridge High standout Will DiIorio, the Cougar senior swingman who has started in WSU's first two games. "It's what you play college basketball for -- the excitement, the atmosphere, playing against a really good team."

Dower was a bit more blunt in describing a typical WSU-Gonzaga contest.

"It's basically a fistfight," Dower said. "Guys are in there battling. It's the battle of Washington. It's a rivalry game. Guys are going to come out fighting. May the best team win."

The Cougars like to think they can be that team Thursday.

"We feel like we can compete with anybody," Lacy said. "Being that they're ranked and such, it'll be a good win."

"It would give us a lot of respect that we think we deserve," DiIorio said.

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