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Cougs continue tough stretch with back-to-back games against UW

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The Apple Cup series starts with two in a row against WSU’s rivals from the west side.

NCAA Basketball: Washington State at Southern California Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not all the time that you see a basketball team take on the same opponent twice in a row. Weirdly enough, WSU gets to do it twice in a row. The Cougs will take on UW twice this week and Oregon State twice next week. It’s an odd sight to see on the schedule, but former Columbia head coach, and current WSU head coach Kyle Smith says he’s used to it.

“It reminds me of the Ivy League,” Smith told the media in his press conference Tuesday. “You’d open with your rival the first week in the Ivy League. Like, we’d play Cornell at home, then you’ve got to go play them at their place. Hopefully my staff, the few guys we had over there, can tap into that.”

This week’s double dip is an unplanned back-to-back for WSU against their rivals. the Cougars will make up a previously postponed game at home against the Huskies on Wednesday. They’ll follow that with a game in Seattle against UW this weekend.

“It’s a little weird,” Smith continued. “There’s a little more pressure on us. There will be adjustments and that, but it can be a different game. Win or lose, you got to turn around and play that team again. It’s like in tennis, we’ve got first serve. You’ve got to hold serve. If you get broken, you got to break back. It’s tough, you know, it’s a rivalry. It will be competitive.”

Of course, the fact that the back-to-back comes against WSU’s in-state rivals adds a little extra flavor into this recipe. It could add some extra emotions into the rivalry, especially for players with a little more skin in the game than others.

Seattle native Noah Williams has only been at WSU for a couple of years, but he’s already had a couple of big moments against his former home town squad. The most notable came during his freshman season when Williams made it very clear who the city of Seattle belonged to after sinking a pair of free throws to help WSU to a big win over UW.

Of course, Williams is one of the most notorious trash talkers WSU has had for quite some time. With a reputation like that, it’s only natural to worry about how he will handle back-to-back emotional games against the Huskies. Smith, however, doesn’t seem worried.

“I think Noah’s maturing and growing,” Smith said. “He’s always going to be juiced and we’d expect nothing less. He’ll lay his heart out there and compete to win. This is his fifth game playing these guys. They’re going back to back and going back home. He’s an excitable guy. We’ll just try to temper it, but he’ll pull some guys with him and them excited.”

A lot like the Cougs, the Huskies are a team that had a hot streak. But, again like WSU, the Dawgs have also hit a rough stretch. UW has lost four out of their last five, but there is still plenty on the line this week. WSU sits one game behind UW in the standings, and two games out of a fourth place spot and the final bye in the Pac-12 Tournament.

Emotions will be high, and it should be a lot of fun. The back-to-back starts tonight in Pullman. Tip-off set for 8 p.m. with TV coverage on ESPNU.

Links

In midst of late-season slide, Washington State eyes enthusiasm-boosting sweep of rival Washington | The Spokesman-Review
Washington State has a chance to restore enthusiasm, if nothing else.

Boeing Apple Cup Series round one tips off Wednesday at Beasley - Washington State University Athletics
The first half of the Boeing Apple Cup Series kicks off the second half of the season as the Cougs host the Huskies at Beasley Wednesday night.

Michelle Smith Pac-12 women's basketball mailbag - Feb. 22, 2022 | Pac-12
Washington State’s weekend sweep of the Arizona schools and its newfound position in a second-place tie in the conference standings should do a whole lot for the Cougars’ NCAA prospects.