And it goes beyond the opportunity for the Cougars to take down their rivals and snap a four-game losing streak to the Huskies.
“I don’t think they’re going to drop out of the Top 25 or the Top 20 this season,” Bone said of the Huskies. “So I think it would be a huge win for our program.”
It might be the kind of win the Cougars (14-6, 4-4 Pac-10) need to help solidify a postseason resume that so far lacks any eye-popping victories. The Cougars missed early in the season, falling 63-58 at home to then-No. 5 Kansas State, before the Wildcats tumbled out of the Top 25. Washington State beat Baylor at a tournament in Honolulu - a victory that’s diminished in impressiveness with the Bears’ struggles - then got routed by an up-and-down Butler in the tournament final.
Getting swept on the road at UCLA and USC to open Pac-10 conference play, then losing by two last Saturday night against Arizona at home certainly didn’t help the Cougars’ case either. Washington State’s RPI sits at 69th in the country at the midway point of the Pac-10 season.
“We need this one on our resume,” Washington State star Klay Thompson said.
If the Cougars intend on finally snapping the Huskies’ recent dominance, which included a gutty 59-52 victory in Pullman late last season that was part of Washington’s season-ending run, they’ll need something better than what Thompson has provided in his career against the Huskies.
The Cougars’ leading scorer was a combined 4-for-29 shooting in the Cougars’ two losses to Washington last season. A year earlier, as a freshman, Thompson went 6 for 18 for a combined 17 points in two losses to the Huskies.
But Washington coach Lorenzo Romar thinks Thompson has more help than ever before, with the development of DeAngelo Casto on the interior and another shooter - Faisal Aden - on the perimeter.
“They have more weapons. You could kind of key in on Klay Thompson and Reggie Moore last year,” Romar said. “Now DeAngelo is playing well on the post and Faisal Aden is scoring - he can go out and score 20, 25 points.”
For most of last season, Washington couldn’t figure out how to play away from home, dropping its first five conference road games. Now, the Huskies (15-4, 7-1) are riding a streak of seven wins in their last eight games away from Hec Edmundson Pavilion, their only loss coming two weeks ago at Stanford.
Since starting their run of conference road wins last February with a victory at Stanford, Isaiah Thomas has asserted himself as even more of a leader for the Huskies. Over that seven-game stretch, Thomas is averaging 20.4 points and 7.3 assists.
After wrapping up their win over the Cougars in Pullman last year, Thomas turned to the Cougars student section and gave a military-style salute. It’s part of his confident, sometimes a little brash, demeanor that he knows Romar would rather have a little more subdued.
“Me, I like to be rowdy and screaming and have my guys ready. Different personalities want different things,” Thomas said. “I know coach wants us to be settled and be business-like and be ready for anything.”
A win on Sunday would give the Huskies their first 8-1 start in conference play in 27 years.
“I’m going in there and doing whatever it takes to get a win because this is a huge game,” Thomas said. “Like I said, we’ll be ready for it and they’ll be ready too.”