This week in WSU hoops: Ready for UW broom?

WASHINGTON STATE beat Washington 80-77 the first time the two men's basketball teams played this season in Seattle. The Huskies have recently fallen on hard times, losing seven consecutive games heading into Sunday's game against the Cougars in Pullman.

It stands to reason that of the two games, the home game will be the easiest to win for Washington State, not to mention it's facing a Husky team with its confidence level on fumes. And that Ernie Kent, in his first season at WSU, is about to lead the Cougars to their first season sweep of UW since 2011, and second only since 2008.

Don't bank on it until it happens. Washington coach Lorenzo Romar hasn't exactly been an easy coach for Kent to solve over the years.

While Kent was at Oregon, the two coaches squared off for eight years. Not once did the Ducks sweep a season series from Washington, not even the two years the Ducks won the Pac-12 tournament (2003, 2007).

Romar's record against Kent's Ducks was 11-6. Romar twice swept season series against Kent while he was the Oregon's coach.

Then again, maybe it's an Oregon thing. Because Kent is 1-0 against Romar this season. And while he was coach at Saint Mary's, Kent went 3-0 against Romar as coach at Pepperdine.

The week ahead: The Cougars (11-14, 5-8) have a single game this week, Sunday's Apple Cup showdown against Washington (14-11, 3-10) at 5:30 p.m. in Pullman. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

Is there a team in the country that has fallen faster this season than Washington? The Huskies were once 11-0, ranked among the country's top 15 and heavily populated among mock NCAA tourney brackets.

Then came a stunning 62-57 loss to Stony Brook on Dec. 28. The Huskies have been in a free fall since, losing 11 of 14 games. They are arguably the Pac-12's worst team, or at least in the conversation with last-place USC.

While the Stony Brook loss was a big blow to UW's confidence, what exacerbated the Huskies' skid was the dismissal of 7-foot center Robert Upshaw on Jan. 26. Upshaw was a defensive game-changer who averaged 4.5 blocked shots and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Upshaw was so dominant on defense, that his 85 blocked shots is still more than double that of every player in the Pac-12 outside of Oregon's Jordan Bell, even though he hasn't played in UW's past six games.

It's stunning that Washington has collapsed as badly as it has, because it's not as though the Huskies are void of talent. UW has a rock solid backcourt in sophomore Nigel Williams-Goss and junior Andrew Andrews, who combined average 29 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and three steals a game. There's also senior forward Shawn Kemp Jr., who isn't quite his father, but talented nonetheless.

There's even been speculation that this season has gone south so suddenly that it could spell the end of the Romar era at Washington. Romar is 264-155 in 13 seasons in Seattle, with Pac-10 titles in 2009 and 2012. But Washington hasn't been to the NCAAs since 2011, and the Huskies fancy themselves as an elite Pac-12 program.

If UW continues to stumble this season and loses its Pac-12 tournament opener, Sunday might be the last time you see Romar in Pullman. Then again, his incoming 2015 recruiting class is ranked No. 8 nationally by Scout.com and could, by itself, argue against a change this offseason. (Part of the high ranking is because the class numbers six strong, the biggest group of anyone in the top 25, but it's still considered a solid group.)

In the previous meeting between the two teams, Washington State out-gamed the Huskies in the stretch to pull out the 80-77 win. Trailing 68-67, Josh Hawkinson gave WSU the lead for good on a three-point play. It was a shootout between the guards, as the Cougars' DaVonte Lacy had 25 points, and Williams-Goss 30.

One key was the Cougars' perimeter defense, which held Washington to 4 of 19 shooting from 3-point range.

NOTABLE NOTES
  • WSU senior guard Dexter Kernich-Drew has scored at least 20 points in three consecutive games. Kernich-Drew made 10 3-pointers during last week's split against the Arizona schools.

  • Cougar sophomore Josh Hawkinson continues to lead the Pac-12 in rebounding at 10.5 per game. Hawkinson, who averages 14.4 points a game, is the only player in the Pac-12 averaging a double-double this season.

  • WSU is holding a ZZU CRU reunion for all past and present members for Sunday's game. Tickets in the student section are available for $10, but those wanting to sit in "The Cage" must wear a ZZU CRU t-shirt.

  • Neither Washington State or Washington have had a Pac-12 player of the week honor this season.

    Read Nick Daschel’s occasional Pac-12 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel

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