You could feel Cougs' confidence in the air

SEATTLE -- Sitting in nose-bleed territory at Alaska Airlines Arena today, surrounded by a large number of Cougar fans, I had a flashback to one of my favorite childhood sports memories: sitting in this same part of the arena in February 2007 and watching the Cougars and Huskies hit each other with punch after punch.

The Cougars won that Wednesday night game, 65-61. Ivory Clark blocked three shots, Derrick Low hit two clutch free throws, Kyle Weaver was Kyle Weaver, and Taylor Rochestie scored 16 points.

I was only 8-years-old at the time, but I remember being covered in sweat by the time the game ended. It was that exciting and nerve wracking.

Klay Thompson helped fuel more Cougar and Husky excitement in subsequent years, but the rivalry has been mostly one-sided since he left for the NBA.

When the Cougars lost badly to UC Santa Barbara earlier this season while the Huskies were en route to an 11-0 start and a No. 21 national ranking, I not only had no delusions about beating the Dawgs this season but actually worried the Cougs might not win a Pac-12 game this season.

Yet as I walked into Hec Ed Pavilion today I was cautiously optimistic. The Cougs were coming off an upset of Cal and the Dawgs had lost three in a row.

UW jumped out to a 9-2 lead but I didn’t have one inclination about throwing in the towel.

That’s because this Cougar team projects an aura that says “we are confident and we will never stop battling.”

When WSU tied the score just before halftime and then built a seven-point lead to start the second, it was proof to me the Cougar aura I sensed wasn't a figment of my imagination.

As the second half wound down and the nail biting soared, I started to think about that game from February 2007. This one was just like it — punch, counter punch, upper cut, right cross, body blow and haymaker.

These two teams were going at it in a memorable way.

This game was a blast. This game is what Cougar basketball once was.

This game is what Cougar basketball is again.

No, I don’t have visions of the Pac-12 title or an NCAA berth dancing in my head. But I do know that Cougar basketball is fun to watch again.

Josh Hawkinson didn’t have his best game on offense today, but he’s like a whole new player from last season. So is Ike Iroegbu, whose driving and dishing against the Huskies was a pure joy to watch. And seeing Brett Boese and Que Johnson combine for 26 points off the bench was just cool.

DaVonte Lacy, of course, was the man with the plan as he usually is, shaking off a tough first half to lead the Cougs in scoring with 25, including all those clutch FTs in the final minute.

I had a huge smile on my face as I left the arena. And not just because the Cougars were on the right side of the 80-77 final score. But because the Cougars believe in themselves. You can see it and feel it in the air.

There’s a long way to go before we know exactly where the 2014-15 Cougars stand, but when this long-suffering fan is having flashbacks to 2007 you know Ernie Kent is doing something very, very special on the Palouse right now.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ryan Witter is a top-notch student and two-sport athlete in his sophomore year of high school in Seattle. He is a lifelong Cougar fan whose dad co-founded CF.C two months after he was born.


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