HARMELING: Coug-Husky game a can't-miss event

IT'S NOT JUST ANOTHER game. Never has been, never will be. I have been fortunate to be part of many classic Cougar-Husky basketball games over the last several years. They are something special. And if you don't agree, I suggest taking a quick gander at the 2004-05 highlight tape and seeing Dick Bennett direct a certain finger at the UW student section.

We're talking THE Dick Bennett. Bobby Knight, the game's master bad boy, was so moved by the gesture that he called Dick the next day to say he was proud of his old friend.

On Saturday, the 14-6 (4-4) Cougars and the 12-7 (3-5) Huskies will renew their hard court rivalry at Hec Ed. Tip off is at 12:30 p.m. and the game will be televised on FSN. My advice is straight forward: Don't miss it.

This game brings out the fight and fury in everyone connected to it. Take a walk with me down memory lane for a little insight into some of the recent battles between the two, and then I'll offer up some thoughts on Saturday's showdown.

  • 2004-05: Huskies 2 wins, Cougs 0 wins. Okay, okay. I'll admit it. They smoked us twice that year. It's funny to look back at the box scores and see someone named "B. Roy" come off the bench. The game in Seattle brought out Coach Bennett's middle finger. That tells you how high the emotions can be in this one.

  • 2005-06: Cougs 2 wins, Huskies 0 wins. The victory in Seattle marked the first time in 57 years we beat a top 10 team on the road. This game provided a glimmer of what was to come from the Cougs in the next two seasons. Kudos to Josh Akognon for going nuts in that Seattle contest, coming off bench for 27 points. Nice stat line from Weaver also with 19, 6, and 6. A month later in Pullman, with the Huskies still ranked in the top 25, we dispatched them 77-64.

  • 2006-07: Cougs 3 wins (1 in the Pac-10 tourney), Huskies 0 wins. The best part about the lopsided win at home that season (75-47) was hearing about how much Spencer Hawes hated Pullman, only to have him not play with a bum ankle. He was back in action for the game in Seattle and we won a heart-stopper, 65-61. And two weeks later we knocked them out of the Pac-10 tournament, 74-64, with Taylor Rochestie leading the way with 20 points.

  • 2007-08: Cougs 2 wins, Huskies 0 wins. This season's wins were definitely the most special to me for a couple different reasons. The game in Seattle was the conference opener and less than two weeks prior I broke my right thumb, which we thought was going to keep me out at least six weeks. Our trainers did a great job of creating a soft cast that let me get back sooner than I thought, so playing in the game was a blessing in itself. Being able to bang a couple 3's in the second half was a sight for sore eyes as it helped me get out of my slump I was in prior to being injured. The game in Pullman was a true classic – double-OT on Senior Night. Does it get any better? Who could forget Weaver's steal with a few seconds left with the game tied as he pushed the ball up the open court only to have his buzzer beating floater juuuuust miss. Also, how about Ryan Appleby's 30-foot attempt hoping to tie the game and put it into triple overtime? Missed by literally two inches. Now that's sending the seniors out in style. Weaver had 20 points and Aron Baynes and Robbie Cowgill each pulled down 8 rebounds. That victory extended our win streak over the Huskies to seven games.

  • 2008-09: Huskies 2 wins, Cougs 0. I'll give it to them. They dismantled us at home to start conference play. And then losing to them on their Senior Night -- a night when we played tough but just couldn't quite get over the hump down the stretch -- was tough for everyone -- especially for me as I was sitting out with an injured shoulder that barely allowed me to lift my right hand over my head.

    So now here we are heading into Saturday's renewal of the rivalry. We have two teams that look pretty well matched on paper. Two teams that are coming off losses in their last Pac-10 games. What can a young Cougar team expect when they walk into BofA Arena?

    Well, for one, don't be surprised if a blown-up picture of something embarrassing is in the hands of their students. Last year, they were cavorting around with large pics of Rochestie and Baynes in bed together. T-bone and Baynes thought it was hilarious. But don't let that example fool you into thinking it will all be creative from their fans. You can count on them holding their arms up and chanting "wheeaatt fields, wheeaatt fields." They seem to love that one.

    For the WSU freshman, this will be their third experience in a high-intensity environment (the first being in the Kennel, the second at Kansas State). If they thought Gonzaga was a rivalry, just wait. Nothing compares to playing the Huskies on their turf. The week and seconds leading up to the game feels like something is on the verge of exploding. And that feeling won't go away until the final buzzer. The thought of giving the Cougar Nation bragging rights until the next match-up is an incredible motivator. Not that there's not enough motivation to begin with, just consider it the icing on the cake.

    I'm not going to call out anybody by name from UW, but I don't think it's a secret how some of them play the game. Every team has players that feel the need to throw in some cheap shots (and WSU is not completely innocent of that either). But I can say with confidence that it has been my experience that UW tends to have more of those guys than others. I'll go ahead and clear one name: Jon Brockman. There are some players that play absolutely as hard as they can with physicality and intensity, but within the rules of the game. After the game -- win or lose -- they'll shake your hand, look you in the eye, and tell you "good game." He was one of those players. I respect the heck out of Jon Brockman. Other players like to run their mouth. Like last year when one of their players thought it'd be a good idea to talk trash to Baynes after the game.

    Had a fight broken out, I've got $600 that says that Baynes would have eaten that guy.

    An important side note to my observation about Husky cheap shots is this: Their coach, Lorenzo Romar, is an incredible human being. The guy is first class and if you've heard otherwise you're dead wrong.

    Random tip for the Cougs: make sure to protect the ball against their pressure defense.

    Random thought of optimism for the Cougs: Reggie Moore isn't your average freshman. It's crazy to say that I'm completely confident in a freshman point guard playing at Washington for the first time. He won't be perfect, but I guarantee he won't be intimidated either.

    I'm canceling all plans/practices for Saturday, and you should too. You never know when you'll witness the next classic, like our Senior Night game of '08.

    Win or lose, I'll be proud as heck to be a Coug.

    Is it Saturday yet?

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daven Harmeling was a mainstay on the Washington State basketball team – and a fixture on the Pac-10 All-Academic team – during the most successful three-year stretch in Cougar history. Part of Dick Bennett's stellar recruiting class of 2004, this Grand Junction, Colo., product completed his eligibility last season and now is in Vancouver, Wash., running clinics for Dan Dickau Basketball, coaching high school ball, and working as a substitute teacher. He is writing a regular column for Cougfan.com this season.

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