From his home in London to an elite New England prep school, Matthew Bryan-Amaning had seemingly been everywhere. Now he’s been to the Middle of Nowhere, AKA Pullman, Washington.
Last week "MBA" morphed into Mouth-thew Bryan-Amaning, chirping along with teammate Isaiah Thomas about how the University of Washington men’s basketball teammates had scant regard for everything Pullman. MBA characterized Washington State as “the number-one party school.” Thomas chimed in that it seemed to be in “the middle of nowhere.”
After the Cougars' 87-80 victory over the UW Sunday night (Jan. 30), both claims may still be valid, especially the “party” part. Despite what should’ve been crippling second-half foul trouble, Wazzu players and their mentors overcame what has been the reigning problem for the Huskies’ Pac-10 competitors this season. The Cougs threw a restrictive zone around big man Bryan-Amaning, and the Huskies — despite repeated, sometimes desperate perimeter feeds from Thomas to open three-point shooters — could only drop 11 long balls, three more than the opponent had but obviously not enough to win.
Washington led just once during the final 23 minutes, and WSU commanded an 11-point advantage with 46 seconds left.
With his game plan, Coug coach Ken Bone may have done other Pac-10 coaches a big favor. Or maybe he didn’t. It isn’t likely that the Huskies’ offense will falter during their nine remaining league games, including five at home and two later this week at the talent-challenged Oregon schools. Nor does MBA fail to take care of business in games following some of his lesser performances, as he’s shown several times this season.
Husky fans were frustrated watching the Dawg offense repeatedly fail while the indomitable Wazzu star Klay Thompson, perhaps the league's player of the year, was pouring down 25 points despite foul trouble. Midway through the second half, WSU had several key players locked down on the bench with four fouls each, with no Husky player stepping forward to try to seize the lead.
Certain Seattle fans had the advantage of a live-and-televised cross-state Husky double-header, as the Kristi Kingma-led UW women beat the visiting Cougs 64-52 for Washington’s 31st straight win against WSU. The streak extends well back through the years when current Coug coach June Daugherty was running the Husky program.
The men’s loss wasn’t exactly a death knell for a team that came into the game ranked 18th in the nation. The Dawgs (7-2 in league play) are still tied for the conference lead but with an Arizona team the Huskies must face on the road Feb. 19.
UW Coach Lorenzo Romar’s challenge now seems to be convincing his players to refrain from saying things that wind up pasted to the walls of opponents’ locker rooms. The comments by Thomas and MBA, while scarcely incendiary, nevertheless prompted such a fan advantage in Pullman that Coug coach Bone felt obliged to pen a campus-newpaper op-ed piece last week urging fans to maintain civility.
To that end, visible on the TV feed amid the crimson of the fan frenzy was a silent, perhaps apt sentiment from a supporter. It was a simple sign, presumably intended for the Huskies’ star players, that read: “Welcome to Nowhere.”