PULLMAN – There aren’t many schools that have met more often in basketball than Washington State University and the University of Idaho.
When the two get together tonight in WSU’s Beasley Coliseum, it will mark the 105th consecutive year the two schools, separated by about 8 miles and an invisible state line, have met.
But despite having played 264 (or 263, if you go by Idaho’s records) times, these aren’t desperate rivals. More like two brothers playing in the backyard.
“We played against them this summer, so we know them all pretty well,” said WSU sophomore Abe Lodwick, who did not play in last year’s 55-41 WSU win in Moscow, the Cougars’ sixth consecutive win in the series.
“We scrimmaged pretty much every day,” Lodwick added. “It was a lot of fun. We got to know the guys. They’re good guys, honestly. That’s probably not good for the rivalry, but I know once the balls roll out (tonight), once we hit the court, it will be a pretty even game.”
The Cougars bring a 6-2 mark into tonight’s non-conference game, having lost last week at then-17th-ranked Gonzaga 74-69 and at Kansas State 86-69.
The Vandals are going the other way, raising their record to 5-2 last Sunday with a 68-48 beating of then-No. 25 Portland in Moscow.
“They are quick and aggressive,” WSU coach Ken Bone said of the Vandals, “so I would assume they will try to play the way they’ve played so far this year and that’s more similar to Kansas State than anyone else we’ve played.”
That might not be good news for the Cougars. The Wildcats forced 25 WSU turnovers, the most for a Cougars team in more than four years.
“It took time to understand how aggressive Kansas State was going to play and how they overplayed us in the passing lanes,” Bone said. “Everything they did, we had not seen. And that’s why you play those games.”
Not at all like home
Brock Motum saw his most extended action against Kansas State since the season-opening blowout of Mississippi Valley State and the freshman from Australia made the most of it.
He scored four points – hitting 2 of 3 shots – and added three assists and three rebounds – both season highs.
“It was good to feel like I was in the game a little more,” said Motum, who did not get into the Gonzaga game. “It’s just easier to get into the game and get more of a feel for it.”
Bone says the 6-foot-9 Motum has earned his way onto the court.
“(He) hasn’t played a lot of minutes, but he’s 8 for 10 from the field, 3 for 4 from the 3-point line,” Bone said. “He’s just gotten better and better ever since he tripped over his own feet that one game.”
Bone was referring to a breakaway Motum had against Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne, when Motum was admittedly still trying to get his legs under himself in the United States.
“I was a little bit nervous, because it’s a whole other country away,” said Motum, who is from Brisbane in the Queensland region of Australia but played basketball in Sydney. “I moved away from home two years ago to (the Australia Institute of Sport), but I was still in the same country. Now I’m on the other side of the world.”
And on the wrong side of winter.
“I just wish it would snow,” Motum said. “All this cold weather and I’m not getting anything in return.”
No place like home?
The Cougars are opening a stretch of six consecutive home games, though you can’t really call it a homestand.
WSU will play its next four home game at four different sites.
After meeting Idaho tonight in Beasley Coliseum, the Cougars will host Air Force on Saturday at the Spokane Arena.
Then, after taking a week off for finals, WSU will travel to Kennewick and host Portland State in the Toyota Arena on Dec. 19. The Cougars will then bus across the Cascades and host LSU in Key Arena Dec. 22.
“It’s good for those fans who can’t always see us, they get a chance to see us,” Lodwick said.
WSU returns to campus to open Pac-10 play, hosting Oregon on Dec. 31.
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