As of midweek, only 2,400 tickets had been sold for tonight’s collegiate basketball doubleheader between Washington State and Gonzaga at the Arena.
Perhaps the novelty of the Cougars and Bulldogs renewing their men’s rivalry for the first time in six years, as they did last winter, has already worn off.
But it’s more likely that area fans have simply been too busy of late - dealing with things like live power lines dropping into their backyards, or ice-ladened tree limbs crashing onto their roofs - to get out and pick up tickets for this year’s Cavanaugh’s Basketball Classic.
In any event, the lag in ticket sales means plenty of good seats should still be available when the WSU and GU women tip it off at 6. The men’s game is scheduled to start at 8.
The Cougars women (0-1) hold a lopsided 13-1 edge against GU (1-2) in a series dating to 1977. The teams last met in 1994-95 when WSU prevailed 74-65 in Spokane. The Bulldogs’ only win came in 1992-93 when they snapped an 11-game losing streak against the Cougars with a 71-69 victory in Cheney.
The Cougars would seem to have a decided advantage inside, where senior Kristen Erickson and junior Amy Sanehotlz, a pair of 6-foot-2 forwards, sandwich 6-4 junior center Yvonne Kunze. Erickson scored 20 points in a season-opening loss to Colorado State and Saneholtz had 12.
GU will counter with quickness in the backcourt, where junior Staci Andrews is averaging 10.3 points per game.
The men’s game will feature a much different look than last year’s overtime thriller, which marked the first time the schools had met since 1988.
WSU edged the Bulldogs 72-67 in the first basketball game played in the new Arena. The Cougars’ Mark Hendrickson and GU’s Paul Rogers each finished with 21 points, but WSU converted 8 of 10 free throws in overtime.
Hendrickson has since taken his act to the NBA, but Rogers, GU’s 7-foot senior center, is back - albeit at less than 100 percent physically.
Rogers has been slowed by a stress fracture in his right foot and, with little in the way of front-line experience around him, could be in for a long night against WSU’s veteran post duo of 6-9 senior Tavares Mack and 6-7 junior Carlos Daniel.
“Our depth up front is scary,” admitted GU coach Dan Fitzgerald. “We are the thinnest and least physical up front in many, many, many years.”
The Cougars (2-0) also have an advantage on the wing where 6-4 senior Isaac Fontaine is averaging 20 points and 6.5 rebounds a game.
GU (1-1) has a wing gunner of its own in Lorenzo Rollins, but the 6-4 senior has struggled with his shooting touch.
Both teams are inexperienced at the point, where a pair of freshmen could do battle. The Bulldogs will start redshirt freshman Matt Santangello and the Cougars will counter with either oft-injured senior Kareem Jackson or true freshman Blake Pengelly.
In all, there are 15 new names on the rosters of the two teams. But WSU coach Kevin Eastman still expects an intriguing matchup between the longtime rivals.
“This is a game that should always be played,” he said, noting his school’s lopsided 93-38 edge in the series means little to the players involved this year. “I fully understand that we are not going to go undefeated the next 10 years playing Gonzaga, because they are a good program with good players.”
Eastman added he was on the other side of such a rivalry - where “the perceived program isn’t quite to the level of the other one” - while at UNC-Wilmington.
“I used to always try to play an (Atlantic Coast Conference) team,” he explained. “And the only one we ever got to play was North Carolina State. We ended up beating them and that was the last ACC team we were able to play from that point on.”
Tickets for tonight’s doubleheader range from $19.50 to $8.50 and can be purchased at the gate or from any G&B; Select-a-Seat outlet.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 color photos