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February 26, 2011Sunday night at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, the Washington Huskies will host their cross-state rival, Washington State, with a clear sense of purpose a vivid memory of their most recent meeting in Pullman.
The Huskies (19-8 overall, 10-5 Pacific-10 Conference) need to win their final three games in order to at least tie for second place in the conference. This momentum is important for the team as it gears up for the Pac-10 tournament as well as a bid to get into the NCAA Tournament.
As is often the case late in the season, Washington is coping with various injuries and ailments.
Washington will face Washington State (17-10, 7-8) minus three players from when the season started.
"Brendan Sherrer is out with a disgusting staph infection," coach Lorenzo Romar said bluntly. "Also, Scott Suggs will be out for the WSU game due to a sprained MCL."
The Huskies are well acquainted with knee injuries after sophomore point guard Abdul Gaddy went down with a season-ending ligament tear in early January.
Suggs, however, could be back as early as Thursday's key game against second-place UCLA, Romar said.
Romar said that he believes the Huskies are a completely different team than the one that lost in Pullman, 87-80, on Jan. 30.
"We have been continually working and showing improvement in practices, which will hopefully help us in Sunday's game," Romar said.
Redshirt freshman guard C.J. Wilcox will make his second career start against the Cougars instead of senior Venoy Overton.
Wilcox is averaging 14.4 points over the past five games with 19 coming at Arizona.
"The team understands what is best for the team," said Romar, who has used Overton off the bench as a spark for much of the season. "If you are going to guard C.J. you are not going to leave him. If the opposing team is focusing on guarding C.J. that could possibly take pressure off of Isaiah Thomas."
Wilcox made his first career start against Seattle University Tuesday and was only 1-for-8 from the field for three points but did grab six rebounds.
Overton was in foul trouble against the Redhawks and wound up taking only one shot and went scoreless.
"We want players who will fight for a starting position and who want to start," Romar said. "Venoy keeps showing improvement in practices and he keeps fighting for a starting position. We have been talking about this enough over the past three-to-four years where we just kind of talk through it."
The Huskies remember the postgame celebration that took place when the Cougars defeated them in Pullman. Romar hopes that the Huskies' Dawg Pack student section will remain in their seats after the game, should the Huskies are defeat the Cougars.
Washington has won 14 straight games at home and they are hoping to keep their winning streak alive and gain revenge against the Cougars.
Washington also will honor former Husky Steve Hawes in the first half.