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Feb 2, 2024 9:43 pm

Washington State visits Washington amid uncertain future for rivalry

Washington and Washington State have two regular-season games remaining against each other, the first Saturday night in Seattle.

But what then for the Apple Cup series with the implosion of the Pac-12 Conference?

The Huskies are off to the Big Ten next season while the Cougars will be playing hoops in the West Coast Conference, leaving the future of one of the longest college basketball rivalries — this will be the 298th meeting since 1910 — in doubt.

UW coach Mike Hopkins said he has had talks with WSU’s Kyle Smith about continuing the series.

“I think everybody wants to see that,” Hopkins said. “The Apple Cup, since I’ve been here and really learned about it, it’s a great series. It’s great for the state. It’s great for the programs. It’s great for the fans. So, we’ll do whatever we can to make that happen.”

At this point, Smith and the Cougars (15-6, 6-4 Pac-12) are more concerned with snapping a 15-year NCAA Tournament drought.

“We do have a little bit of a size advantage,” Smith said of the matchup with the Huskies, “but I think they offset it with their quickness and skill and speed.

“So it’s kind of a battle of two different looks.”

WSU beat Colorado 78-69 last Saturday as Jaylen Wells had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Myles Rice also scored 17. Isaac Jones added 13 points and 11 rebounds and Andrej Jakimovski had 11 points, nine rebounds and a game-high four assists.

The Huskies (12-9, 4-6) are coming off perhaps their best performance of the season, a 98-73 victory last Saturday against visiting Utah as Keion Brooks Jr. scored 27 points. Paul Mulcahy added a season-high 18, Moses Wood scored 17 and Sahvir Wheeler contributed 12 points and 10 assists.

The Huskies have a few questions health-wise.

Starting center Franck Kepnang, who has missed the past 11 games with a knee injury, returned to practice this week though his status remains unknown. The same goes for 7-footer Braxton Meah, who suffered a sprained ankle late in the first half against the Utes and didn’t return.

Backup guard Koren Johnson missed last Saturday’s game with a dislocated shoulder.

“It’s a good time to have a slow week,” said Hopkins, referring to the lack of a midweek game with the rivalry on deck. “We needed the break.”

–Field Level Media

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