PULLMAN – Riding a four-game losing streak, few things would enliven the Washington State men’s basketball team’s spirit like a win today over rival Washington. With losses mounting, WSU (8-12, 1-7 Pac-12) would likely need a Pac-12 tournament championship to have a shot at the postseason.
But coach Ken Bone said that apathy hasn’t set in. A rivalry win over UW (13-8, 5-3) to end the first half of conference play could only help.
“There are different ways to handle it,” Bone said of the losing streak. “You can handle it like, ‘Oh well, big deal we lost,’ ” and from the outside it looks like ‘Oh, they’re handling it well.’ And then there’s another side where, ‘No, we’re ticked off and we need to pull together and win.’
“I think that’s where our guys are, like last year. They continue to stay together, work hard and I think our team chemistry is good.”
The Cougars have struggled on offense through Pac-12 play and rank last in the conference in scoring. WSU’s offense is predicated on its shooters opening up lanes with 3-point shooting, but that will be a tall task against the Huskies.
UW has allowed Pac-12 opponents to shoot just 25 percent on 3-pointers, which leads the conference. Arizona ranks second in the category at 29 percent. However, the paint should be open for the Cougars as the Huskies rank last in the conference in both blocked shots and overall field-goal percentage defense.
Whether or not the Cougars win could come down to the injury status of leading scorer DaVonte Lacy. The junior guard averages 17.7 points per game, but has played just 11 minutes against Pac-12 opponents because of an appendectomy and a separate rib injury.
Lacy is also an emotional leader on the team, according to players and coaches. But in front of what could likely be WSU’s biggest crowd of the season, emotion probably won’t be in short supply.
“When we play them, it’s usually tough, and that’s what we expect,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said Thursday. “I’m sure DaVonte Lacy will be back and that will give them a shot in the arm. They’ll be fired up. I’m sure it’ll be a very competitive game.”