Streaky Cougs and Dawgs set for Pac-10 opener

TALK ABOUT A STREAKY matchup. Washington State and Washington open the Pac-10 basketball season Saturday in Seattle with the Cougs riding a 12-game winning streak and the Dawgs a five-game streak. But ask any self-respecting WSU fan the trend line they like most and it is this: The Cougars have beaten the Huskies five straight times.

Three Ws came last season -– including a 74-64 win in the Pac-10 tourney -– and two the year before.


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Tip off Saturday is at 7 pm at Hec Ed Pavilion. A sell out is expected. The game will be televised live on FSN.

The Cougars' five straight victories over Washington ties the WSU series-best streak, set in 1941-42.

WSU comes into the game with a No. 4 national ranking and a perfect 12-0 record. The last time the Cougs were 12-0 was in the 1991-92 season -– a season in which they also opened Pac-10 action at Washington (and lost in overtime).

Washington is 10-4, riding a five-game string of victories that includes a road win at LSU. They have scored 80 points or more in eight of their 14 games.

After losing four out of five between Nov. 21 and Dec. 8, Husky coach Lorenzo Romar pledged more defense from his club and started spreading some of the playing time accordingly. In the five-game win streak, the Huskies have surrendered 62 points per game, albeit against mostly second-tier competition.

A year ago, all the talk surrounding the Cougars and Dawgs was about 7-foot UW freshman center Spencer Hawes. He didn't play in the first match up, in Pullman, and the Cougs won in a rout. He was back for the second game -– a nailbiter in Seattle that went down to the final seconds -– as well as the showdown in the conference tournament.

Hawes has left for the NBA. But most of the Husky chatter these days is still focused on the post, where 6-7 junior Jon Brockman is lighting up the scoreboard, at 18.8 points per game, and cleaning the glass, with 11 rebounds per game.

He and Aron Baynes, the Cougars' 6-10 junior center, figure to make the paint a most interesting place come Saturday. Baynes is averaging 11.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Neither player -– as last season's Cougar-Husky games showed -- is afraid to mix things up down low.

Sharpshooting senior guard Ryan Appleby is the Huskies' second-leading scorer, at 13 points per game and point guard Justin Dentmon is third at 11.6.

The Cougars, like last season, are one of the premier defensive teams in the nation. They surrendering 52.4 points per game – second-best in the nation behind Georgetown. On offense, they're paced by Derrick Low (13.1 points ppg) and Kyle Weaver (11.6 points, 4.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds ppg).

* The Cougars' unexpected 26-wins last season was voted the state's top sports story for 2007 in a poll of sportswriters, the Associated Press announced.

* The Village Pub in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood will be airing the Cougar-Husky game on all its plasma screens Saturday and invites the crimson faithful to watch the game, sample the tasty new menu and enjoy the expanded seating.

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