Huskies' Matthew Bryan-Amaning calls Washington State "the party school." Teammate Isaiah Thomas adds: "It's in the middle of nowhere."
Just when you thought the close connection between the coaches had watered down the basketball version of the Apple Cup, Washington’s Isaiah Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning added a little spice to the in-state hoops rivalry.
And it all started with a seemingly harmless question.
So what do you think about Pullman?
“It looks just like a prep school,” Thomas said. “It’s in the middle of nowhere. It’s snowing. It’s cold. I don’t understand why people want to go there.”
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Bryan-Amaning added: “I understand why, it’s the No. 1 party school.”
“I like the big cities, man,” Thomas said. “I like cities like Seattle, with all the new people you meet every day. Things like that.”
If you’re looking for trash talk, that’s as good as it gets these days between the Huskies and Cougars.
It’s a far cry from the time when former Washington State coach Dick Bennett made an obscene gesture to the UW student section during a January 2005 game.
Blame Lorenzo Romar and Ken Bone for scaling down the off-court shenanigans and verbal warfare.
Bone spent four years at Washington working on Romar’s coaching staff, and they’ve spent their entire adult lives following each other’s careers.
Perhaps fittingly, their friendship began on a basketball court and the game has made them allies and rivals, which is the case 7 p.m. Sunday when No. 18 Washington (15-4, 7-1 in Pac-10) visits Washington State (14-6, 4-4).
“It goes back to our college days,” Bone said Tuesday on a teleconference. “I was at Seattle Pacific University and he (Romar) was at the University of Washington. We met in the offseason just playing ball in local gymnasiums.
“Then, off and on, (we) just kept that relationship going and when he came to Seattle, he hired me. We’ve had a great relationship over the years.”
Thomas can relate — to a point.
The UW junior co-captain is close friends with WSU sophomore guard Reggie Moore. Yet Thomas relishes the chance to beat the former Rainier Beach High School star.
“It’s all about bragging rights,” Thomas said. “We’re real cool. He’s my guy. He knows I support (him), but he also knows when we play I’m going to do everything in my power to get my team a win.”
In their last meeting, Thomas scored 10 of his 22 points during a crucial second-half stretch that propelled the Huskies to a 59-52 win in Pullman. Moore finished with eight points on 1-for-8 shooting.
The game was a stark contrast to their first encounter last season, which included 50 fouls, two technical fouls and scrappy play in the post and on the perimeter.
Emotions ran high on both sides and Moore, who was playing in his first UW-WSU game, flexed his biceps and taunted the UW bench and crowd after a first-half dunk.
Thomas said the display was out of character for the Cougars, and it helped motivate the Huskies to a 92-64 win.
“They did some things that you didn’t think they’d do, but it’s basketball,” he said. “It’s an intense game. I don’t blame them.
“As a competitor, you want teams to do things like that. It makes you play that much harder. It makes you want it that much more.”
Thomas tends to feed off criticisms and verbal slights, whether real or imagined. That might explain why he appeared annoyed Wednesday when reminded of Klay Thompson’s appearance Monday on a local radio show.
During the interview on KJR 950 AM, the Washington State junior picked Arizona’s Derrick Williams when asked who should win the Pac-10 Player of the Year Award.
Told that his answer would upset Seattle listeners, Thompson said: “I guess so.”
It wasn’t Muhammad Ali clowning with Joe Frazier at a weigh-in, but for Thomas — a midseason candidate for the Pac-10’s top award, along with Thompson — it was enough to cause a stir.
“I laughed at it,” Thomas said coyly. “It’s all good, though. We’ll see who wins come Sunday. I’m not into all that. He can say what he wants.
“I’m 4-0 in wins against him, so that’s all I really care about.”
For now, Thomas has the last word.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org