WSU will hit the road to take on Washington (10-6, 3-1) this Sunday in hopes of turning around a two game skid. The Cougars (9-7, 1-3) trail the all-time series against UW 100-172, but they have won two out of the last three.
Junior Reggie Moore realizes how important the game will be for the Cougs, especially considering how they have started in the Pac-12 gauntlet.
“It’s a big game,” Moore said. “Every game is a big game, you want to win it, every game you want to win, but it’s our rivalry and that’s always a big game too.”
Head Coach Ken Bone, who was an assistant coach at Washington from 2002-2005, is also anticipating this weekend’s match-up with the Cougars’ in-state rival.
“It’s fun to go back and play in Seattle,” Bone said. “I mean that’s where I was born and raised, it’s always fun to get back there and see family and friends for a minute, but you don’t get a whole lot of time when there’s a game at hand.”
Washington sports one of the highest octane offenses in college basketball, as they rank 19 in points per game with 79.1, and tenth in rebounds with 40.5.
Nonetheless, the Huskies have stumbled to begin the season, with uncharacteristic losses against Colorado and South Dakota State.
In their most recent game against Seattle University, the Huskies needed a late rally to win the game 93-81. The Redhawks were close for a majority of the game, including being down only 78-76 with a little less than four minutes remaining.
The Huskies are led by highly-touted freshman point guard Tony Wroten, who has been dominating Pac-12 opposition so far this season, including notching seven steals in UW’s loss to Colorado.
Bone praised the freshman, asserting that Wroten plays like a veteran rather than only a freshman.
“I mean the guy’s a pro, there’s no doubt about it and he can hurt you in so many ways,” Bone said. “His basketball instincts, his feel for the game are above and beyond most college guys, and he’s a freshman. He can score, he’s a phenomenal passer, a very good ball handler, gets his hands on a lot of balls on the defensive end, just an outstanding player and just a freshman.”
Moore, a Seattle native, has played with Wroten during the summer and said he’s liked watching Wroten play since they were little. He venerated the youngster, saying he was one of the best players in the conference.
Nonetheless, Moore will have the task of marking the freshman playmaker when the two teams tip off at 4 p.m. on Sunday. He said he’s looking forward to the prospect of guarding Wroten, and there will probably be some trash talk between the two friends.
“We always got a battle, we’re probably going to talk a little stuff to each other like usual,” Moore said. “We played each other in the summer, we’re real good friends, so I mean it’s going to be fun, just like me and Isaiah (Thomas) last year.”
Moore played an instrumental role in the Cougs’ two wins against the Huskies last season. In the Cougs’ 87-80 win at home, Moore accumulated 18 boards, three boards and five dimes.
Later in the season, at Washington, Moore played a better all-around game, by scoring 10 points, grabbing five boards and adding five assists.
Bone attributed much of the credit from the Cougs’ victories against UW last season to former Cougars Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto.
“I don’t really know what the key was, except Klay Thompson was really good,” he said. “Klay could score points a number of ways and DeAngelo Casto, his presence was felt both times we played them. It could be a little different situation if they were here.”
UW’s offense has relied on the three-point shot in past seasons and the Huskies have some sharpshooters on their roster in C.J. Wilcox, who’s shooting 44 percent from downtown, as well as Terrence Ross, who’s shooting 39 percent from the arc.
Moore said the Cougs must get pressure on the Huskies’ shooters and not let them have open opportunities, especially from the three-point line.
“Just put a lot of pressure on them,” Moore said. “Don’t let them get those wide open shots, and make sure we get them hands up on those shots (because) somebody gets a wide open shot it’s probably going to go in.”