Hoops Preview - Washington State

SEATTLE - History has already been made by this Washington basketball team, but they have a chance to make even more Saturday with a win in the 267th hoops Apple Cup at Bank of America Arena. But the Washington State team they are facing probably won't resemble the same squad UW dismantled by 20 back in the beginning of January.

"We won't come out flat," UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar promised Wednesday after the Huskies defeated Seattle University by 27 the night before. "After the first four or five games (of the season), we've stayed the course and have been focused."

Both teams are playing very well; each are riding current three-game winning streaks, including wins over Arizona and Arizona State. On top of that, Washington State stunned UCLA at Pauley Pavilion behind the 33 points of Taylor Rochestie.

But it won't be the rivalry that will fuel Washington's will this weekend, according to Romar, despite the fact that the Huskies hold a 168-98 series advantage. It's the chance for this team to do something no other UW team has done in over a half-century. "Not to downplay it, but we have a chance to win a championship," he said. "This is not about a rivalry. This is about doing something that no one has ever done. They get to create their own legacy. All that trumps who we are playing against.

"Our approach won't change."

The legacy is already in its formative stage. Jon Brockman became the school's all-time leading rebounder earlier this season, and is currently the No. 4 scorer. He should move past Todd MacCulloch and into the top-three with a decent effort Saturday. His 57 double-doubles leads the country.

With his next made 3-pointer, Justin Dentmon will supplant Tre Simmons as the No. 4 career 3-point shooter. He's also currently No. 3 in career assists and No. 2 in steals.

"The makeup of the team has allowed him to roam," Romar said of Dentmon's amazing senior season. In conference right now, Dentmon is top-10 in scoring, free throw percentage, 3-point percentage, steals and 3-point field goals made.

Isaiah Thomas, with his 12 points against the Redhawks Tuesday night, moved into sole possession of the all-time freshman scoring record. His 471 points is 10 points beyond Spencer Hawes' mark in 2007. The Tacoma native has scored in double-figures 26 out of 30 games.

Also expect center Artem Wallace to start the game in place of Darnell Gant, something Romar likes to do in tribute to his departing seniors.

Ironically enough, it also won't really be about the rivalry for Washington State, but I'm sure beating their cross-state foes wouldn't suck. The Cougars are looking to put themselves squarely into the NCAA post-season conversation, after being left for dead a month ago.

Everyone knows who the chief players are for each team: Washington has seniors Jon Brockman and Justin Dentmon, junior forward Quincy Pondexter and true freshman Isaiah Thomas. Washington State has Rochestie, Aron Baynes and Klay Thompson. Those seven players have been game leading scorers in 54 of 59 combined games.

But look to the younger players to possibly spell the difference in this return match. Most notably for Washington, Venoy Overton, Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Justin Holiday and Darnell Gant; for the Cougars it's DeAngelo Casto and Marcus Capers.

"(Washington State Head Coach) Tony Bennett is one of the best coaches in America," Romar said. "He's also one of the fiercest competitors out there, so you'd expect them to get better." He added that with the freshmen like Casto and Capers fully buying into Bennett's system, that has given the Cougars a big push forward.

Romar admitted that he thought it was possible his team could win the Pac-10; he said as much to his wife Leona before the season started. But he hedged his bet, thinking a top-3 finish would be more realistic.

"It's so gratifying in team sports when everyone is on the same page," he said.

If the Huskies can stay on that same page for the next 40 minutes, they can talk about it for the next 40 years.


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