Huskies and Cougs: Things could be bouncing in right direction

The Huskies did the expected well, and the Cougars showed some unexpected life. There could be some bigger excitement ahead, perhaps not all of it confined to the basketball court.

The Huskies did the expected well, and the Cougars showed some unexpected life. There could be some bigger excitement ahead, perhaps not all of it confined to the basketball court.

Many who follow sports no doubt are as tired of reading about losing as local wretches are of writing about it, this wretch wretchedly included.

All can consider Saturday (Nov. 13), then, as an occasion for great statewide catharsis among sports fans who had been rendered sullen, stunned, accustomed to ceaseless defeat.

Saturday was different. Within the same afternoon time frame, partisans in both the northwest and southeast corners of the Evergreen State saw (or heard on radio) sensational team performances, one of them expected but welcome, the other a surprise to be celebrated no matter what your collegiate allegiances.

The early finale, mid-afternoon, featured the second game of the season for the Washington Huskies men’s basketball team, 18th-ranked nationally but probable to be moving up. This could be because of the 118-64 near lapping of the visiting McNeese State Cowboys. The Dawgs weren't supposed to lose this one. To avoid making it an embarrassment of the opponent, mentor Lorenzo Romar was expected to go to his bench after the beating was assured.

But what's a coach gonna do? LoRo eventually cleared the bench but five of seven non-starters scored. Seven players (led by Matthew Bryan-Amaning's 28) scored in double figures. Was this a game or a shoot-around?

McNeese isn't exactly of the same amateurish ilk as Athletes in Action and other inevitable pre-season pushovers. The 'Boys twice have been to the NCAA b-ball tournament, most recently in 2002. The school boasts a number of illustrious athletes among its alums. But no future McNeese hall-of-famers seemed present Saturday, when the high-scorer among the hapless visitors had 18 (the UW's ninth man had 13).

Are the 2010-'11 Huskies this good? Maybe, but it doesn't do to get too carried away. Certainly, though, the Dawgs' 215-140 combined scoring edge against McNeese and St. Martins (in a Nov. 6 tipoff) indicates that this veteran-heavy UW vintage and pick to win the conference championship can keep up its end of the ledger on offense. This is despite the idea that the current collection regrettably may be like other Romar-coached rosters composed of guys who think "free throw" means you're free to throw it within the general vicinity of the bucket (the Dawgs were just a Mr. Magoo-like 20 of 42 from the line).

More will be known through 10 increasingly challenging match-ups leading to league play. The next endeavor is against sibling state institution Eastern Washington in a televised game Tuesday (Nov. 16) at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports Northwest.

The latter network had rights to the other Saturday attraction referenced above. It was what some, perhaps many, had anticipated as a 31-14 Oregon State pencil-in win over the Wazzu Cougs in front of a Beaver-believing crowd in Corvallis.

That was the score, of course, but the winner was from the Palouse. The improbable outcome ended Washington State's 16-game skid in Pac-10 competition.

Moreover, Coach Paul Wulff's lowly regarded legions (now 2-9) made it look easy: strange given that the gamblers had this down as Beavers by three touchdowns. WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel, even having sat for a few minutes after a head hit near the end of the first half, posted total-offense numbers many league QBs would envy.

One wonders, then, given the late-season emergence of Wazzu credibility on both sides of the ball, what the predictions will be for the Dec. 4 Apple Cup. Could Washington State actually be favored? The Cougs get to sit around for a couple of weeks and ease into scrimmaging for the home game against a Husky club that will presumably be bruised from November dates with UCLA and Cal.

If nothing else, the Apple Cup spectacle is sure to involve a winner and loser, to say nothing of all the happy and/or weary readers and wretches in Washington ready to mark the occasion.


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