PULLMAN – The streak is so absurd at this point that it’s become nearly paradoxical.
The mere event of the Washington women’s basketball team beating WSU can’t really be considered remarkable anymore, because the Huskies have done it 36 consecutive times. Sunday’s 79-72 setback for the Cougars was just the most recent in this rivalry losing streak that dates to 1995.
But as that number has increased by two each season since Bill Clinton earned his second term as president, the story line has inflated along with it.
When will it end?
“I started the thing,” said WSU coach June Daugherty, though the Huskies had already beaten the Cougars twice in a row when she began her UW coaching career in 1996. “So I guess it’d be good to end it. But that day will come. I’m confident in this group, and that day will come.”
Daugherty would know. She led the Huskies to 22 straight wins in this series before taking over at WSU in 2007-08, and has since lost to her former school 12 consecutive times.
The Cougars (5-12, 1-5 Pac-12) are getting closer, at least. A scheduling quirk pitted them against the Huskies twice in six days – UW won 60-53 in Seattle on Tuesday – and both games were winnable.
Especially this one. WSU made 48.5 percent of its first-half field goal attempts and led 40-32 with two minutes remaining in the first half, a furious pace for a team that averages 60.5 points per game.
That was as good as it got. UW forward Aminah Williams scored the final two baskets of the half, and a flurry of WSU turnovers in the second half facilitated a 13-0 UW run.
“I thought we looked a little bit shook at that point,” Daugherty said.
They recovered, though. The Cougars eventually took the lead back on a pair of Tia Presley free throws with 13:12 to play, and pulled ahead 61-57 after a Presley basket with 8:07 to play.
But seldom-used UW reserve Heather Corral sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers around a 3 from Kristi Kingma to give the Huskies a 70-65 lead, and UW countered a Presley runner with four consecutive points to pull ahead 74-67 with 2:16 to go in the game.
UW’s outside shooting was the ultimate separator. The Huskies made 12 of 27 3-point attempts, including four by leading scorer Jazmine Davis, who scored 18 points and played the game’s first 29 minutes before leaving midway through the second half with a head injury.
The Huskies missed a few free throws down the stretch, part of the reason why Mariah Cooks was able to cut the lead to three points on a put-back with 10.3 seconds left. And after Kingma made a pair of free throws, Lia Galdeira was fouled shooting a 3-pointer with 7.3 seconds to go, WSU trailing by five, slim hope still alive.
But Galdeira missed all three shots and Washington left victorious, that February game in 1995 still the last time it didn’t.
To put it in terms most unfathomable: It’s possible that when these teams meet next season – barring a matchup in the Pac-12 tournament – there will be freshmen suited up who were not born yet the last time WSU beat the Huskies.
They probably won’t care. This year’s players don’t seem to put much stock in the streak, saying after Sunday’s loss that the current season is the only one that matters.
“We don’t talk about it at all, really,” said junior forward Sage Romberg, who scored 13 points. “This is our team now, and we don’t really think about it. It’s just a game that we want to come out and win.”
“If you line the freshmen up, they probably don’t know anything about it,” Daugherty said. “All they know is right now, we’re 0-2 against the Huskies.”
But who’s counting, right?