The Cougars are last in the Pac-12 at 1-16 and riding a 15-game losing streak. But the Huskies are only 4-9 since their meeting at WSU. “We better be serious about it,” coach Lorenzo Romar says.
Another men’s basketball game between Washington and Washington State is here, and the storyline is reminiscent of many of the previous pairings between the in-state rivals.
The Huskies are hoping to preserve postseason plans, and the Cougars again are cast in the role of spoiler for Wednesday’s 8 p.m. regular-season finale at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“Any win would be good, whether it’s on Wednesday or whether it’s in the (Pac-12) tournament,” WSU coach Ernie Kent said. “They’ve been through a lot this year without having a chance to celebrate a lot, so any kind of celebration would be good.”
WSU @ UW, 8 p.m., ESPNU
To be sure, an upset victory over their most bitter rival wouldn’t soothe the sting from a disastrous 9-20 campaign in which the Cougars are last in the Pac-12 at 1-16 and riding a 15-game losing streak.
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But Kent is looking for something positive to build on after a season in which WSU has its fewest wins since the 2002-03 season.
That was four coaches ago. Since then the program has churned through two Bennetts (Dick and his son, Tony) and Ken Bone before hiring Kent in 2014.
“We’ve got a lot accomplished in 22 months, but that last piece is understanding how to win,” said Kent, who also cited injuries and late-game miscues that led to many defeats. “This program had not won a lot of games, obviously, before we got here. And that blueprint for winning is something that still eludes us.”
UW is a 13-point favorite, but these matchups scare Lorenzo Romar.
The anxiety the UW coach feels before a big showdown against a ranked team is nothing like the nervousness that overcomes him in the days leading up to a game against a seemingly overmatched opponent.
He dreads the idea of the Huskies being overconfident and losing a contest because they were lax in preparation and focus.
It has happened a few times in recent years — most recently an 83-73 nonconference loss to UC Santa Barbara at Alaska Airlines Arena on Dec. 28.
When asked about WSU following Sunday’s 86-73 loss at Oregon, Romar warned: “We better be serious about it.”
The Huskies are well aware that they were fortunate to escape Pullman with a 99-95 overtime victory in their first meeting, which began WSU’s 15 consecutive losses.
“We didn’t take them as serious as we should have,” freshman forward Marquese Chriss admitted. “They came back and kind of made their run and took the game into overtime.”
Eight of UW’s newcomers didn’t play in last year’s game between the teams at Alaska Airlines Arena — an 80-77 Cougars upset victory.
“(Put) the record aside, with Washington State it doesn’t matter,” said senior guard Andrew Andrews, who has a 7-2 record against the Cougars. “When they come in here, they play one of their best games against us.”
Incentives shouldn’t be in short supply for the Huskies (16-13, 8-9 Pac-12). The Cougars are winless since their last meeting, but UW is only slightly better at 4-9.
UW, which is ninth in the Pac-12, could finish sixth with a win and stumbles this week from Oregon State, Stanford and USC.
“We’re still — whatever chances we have — we’re still trying to get an NCAA tournament at-large bid,” Romar said. “It’s senior night and Andrew is playing his last game. So we do have some things in our favor in terms of motivation and emotion.”
However, Romar is guarding against the Huskies taking the Cougars lightly.
“There’s no way we should come out here not ready to go,” he said.
• UW is 12 blocks from breaking the Pac-12 season record of 211 set by Arizona State in 2013-14.
• Sophomore guard Donaven Dorsey, who didn’t make Sunday’s trip to Oregon because of the flu, is expected to be available Wednesday.