Prior to coach Kyle Smith’s arrival in Pullman in 2019, the Mike Hopkins-led Huskies had a four-game winning streak against their cross-state rival Cougars.
Since Smith joined the Washington State men’s basketball team, WSU has flipped the script and is 3-0 versus Washington.
“Every win matters,” Smith said after a 77-62 victory at Alaska Airlines Arena in their last meeting Jan. 31. “In the Northwest, we’re trying to catch these guys as far as they won the league a couple of years ago.
“Lot of respect for Coach Hopkins and what he’s done. There’s a lot of new guys from what they had last year. We’re young and we’ll keep battling. It’s always important. To get a local win, that’s good.”
The Cougs’ three consecutive victories over the Huskies is their longest streak in the 111-year-old series since UW dropped seven in a row between 2006 and 2008.
Washington looks to snap the skid against WSU at 5 p.m. Monday in Beasley Coliseum in a rematch that was originally scheduled for the last week of the regular season.
Both teams played Thursday and Saturday last week and will be playing their third game in five days.
Washington (3-16, 2-12 Pac-12) also is looking to avoid six consecutive defeats while extracting payback against a boisterous WSU team, which made boastful claims of dominance in the rivalry that now favors the Cougars.
“I feel like we’re unbeatable against the Dawgs,” said WSU sophomore standout Noah Williams, the former O’Dea High star, after the Cougars’ victory in Seattle in January.
“We had to let them know who runs the city and Pullman runs it.” Williams said. “Washington State, we run this.”
Hopkins admits the past three matchups with Washington State (12-9, 5-9) have been emotional and physical battles.
”They’re a good team,” he said. “We’re in the same state. We’re both very competitive and both want to win. They got us the last three times. That’s what it is. Every game we play we want to win and compete.”
With five regular-season games remaining, not including a postponed game against Arizona State and the postseason, Washington needs to win two games to avoid finishing with the worst record in school history.
In 1993-94, the Huskies had a 5-22 record for a .185 winning percentage. Arizona compiled the worst record in Pac-12 history while finishing 4-24 (.143) in 1982-83.
After four consecutive blowout defeats, Washington lost in the final minute 64-61 against USC on Saturday.
“We believe if we can rebound the way we did (Saturday night) and for the most part shoot the way that we did and share a little bit that we can beat any team in our league if you’re No. 1 or if you’re No. 12,” Hopkins said. “We’re really focused on how we can be better. It’ll be a very competitive game (against WSU) and we’ve got to be able to match that or even exceed it.”