Huskies look to end road woes in Pullman

After suffering through arguably their most disappointing weekend of the 2004/05 season in a Willamette Valley split of the Oregon schools, the 15th-ranked Husky hoopsters look to get back on more solid NCAA seeding ground this Saturday afternoon when they face their Apple Cup nemesis at Friel Court in Pullman.

#15 WASHINGTON (10-3, 20-4) at WASHINGTON STATE (5-8, 10-12)
Friel Court, Pullman, WA – Saturday, Feb. 19 (4:00 PM, Fox Sports Net)
First Meeting: January 23 (Seattle) – UW 66, WSU 48
Overall Series: Washington leads 166-91

There can be no doubt that after getting pasted by the Beavers last Sunday, the Huskies will be gunning to generate some good road karma – at 4-4, Washington isn't even one of the two PAC-10 teams with a better-than .500 road mark. Only Arizona (6-2) and California (5-4) can boast that.

But it can be argued that the second go-round of the round-ball Apple Cup could be more important for Washington State, who (along with Arizona State) stands just ½-game in front of Oregon in the race for the eighth (and last) spot in the PAC-10 tournament – and the Ducks own the tie-break over the Cougars, having swept their season series after beating WSU 69-66 in Eugene last Saturday.

In their first meeting, the Huskies used an early 14-point run to take a 31-18 halftime lead, and Washington State never really seriously threatened in the second half. Nate Robinson led Washington with 13 points, with Jamaal Williams and Joel Smith chipping in 10 each. They out-boarded WSU 48-36, and get this – the Huskies didn't have a single player with more than three fouls in the contest. Thomas Kelati was the Cougars' only double-figure scorer, tallying 12.

Washington State hasn't been able to build on their monumental 70-63 slapping of Arizona in Tucson, having lost three-of-four games since. Renton junior Randy Green has missed the last four contests with a stress problem in his left leg, and so freshman Daven Harmeling has seen increased minutes – including his first-ever start at Oregon. Harmeling became the fifth freshman to start for the Cougs this season.

Third in the conference in three-point makes, Kelati has seen his average climb to 14 points per game in leading WSU scorers in five straight contests; while Jeff Varem is the only Cougar hitting over 50-percent of his field-goal attempts. Varem is also the PAC-10's third-leading rebounder. Derek Low had a career-best 19 points on 7-12 shooting in Eugene, missing a last-second bomb that could have sent the game to overtime. 6-10 forward Robbie Cowgill had a career-best seven rebounds against the Huskies in Seattle.

Besides re-discovering their defensive intensity (having allowed 90 or more points in all four losses), one of the things Washington must improve on this weekend is their shooting percentage – the Huskies are hitting just 24-percent of their three-point shots (and 40 percent overall) during their last three games. This falls right into WSU's comfort zone, as the Cougars allow exactly 40 percent from the field as a team - tops the PAC-10. In Seattle, Washington got away with shooting just 36 percent from the floor, still their season low-water mark.

There is little danger of the Dawgs giving up 90 points to the Cougs, who will be in their usual movement-and-clock offense. And after their abysmal performance in Corvallis it is less likely that Washington will be looking ahead to their final home stand – though it remains to be seen if the Dick Bennett pace will further frustrate a Husky team looking to re-discover their free-flowing rhythm in time for a March run.

But if the Huskies shoot under 40 percent in Pullman, they may well be explaining their first two-game losing streak of the season instead of feeling better about where they're at.


POS  No. Name              HT   CL   PPG  RPG  
 F    5  Jeff Varem       6-6   SR  10.8  8.0  
 F   24  Kyle Weaver      6-5   FR   4.8  3.2
 C   32  Daven Harmeling  6-7   FR   3.1  1.7 
 G   11  Thomas Kelati    6-5   SR  13.5  4.3 (2.8 APG)
 G    2  Derrick Low      6-1   FR   6.9  0.9 (2.9 APG) 
Rick Samek can be reached at Top Stories