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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

January 17, 2012 at 8:51 AM

How do you lose to your arch-rival 33 times in a row?

I don’t claim to be a savant of women’s basketball, but I admit to a fascination with numbers – statistical improbabilities — and one number caught my eye the other day – 33. That’s how many consecutive times the University of Washington women have defeated Washington State.

I’m stupefied by that. But then, I was stupefied when it hit 30, 31 and 32.

Knowing a bit of the history of series streaks on the men’s side, I went searching in the NCAA women’s record book for such streaks. But the NCAA says it hasn’t researched them for women, so I initially compared the UW women’s streak against the men’s top 10, for lack of a better yardstick.

Then I waded into the school-record streaks of some of the preeminent women’s programs, now and in the past. So while I haven’t come up with a top-10 list of such streaks, at least we can work up a rough template.

Stanford’s 52-game win streak over Washington State – the Cardinal has never lost to the Cougars – is the biggest I could find. Ironically, that matches the men’s all-time record, which was UCLA over Cal from 1961-86.

Not so ironically, more like ominously, the Cougars travel to Stanford this week.


Some others:
Connecticut doesn’t have the outlandish streak you might expect. It has won 27 straight against Seton Hall and St. John’s and 26 in a row against three other Big East programs. (Still, that’s a whole lot of dominance.)
Of the other likely suspects, Tennessee has a 40-game streak against South Carolina; Duke has reeled off 36 in a row against Wake Forest; Old Dominion has a 49-game run on William and Mary; Louisiana Tech has a 38-game hold on Louisiana Lafayette; and Texas once had a 44-game skein on Houston.
Meanwhile, on the men’s side, five of the top 10 streaks are between a power-conference team against a lesser-conference program, like Syracuse against Colgate. (Tied for No. 6 on that list is the WSU men’s 38-game losing streak against Arizona from 1986-2004, broken by Dick Bennett’s second Cougar team.)
Which brings me to my amazement at the UW-WSU series.
It’s tempting to call them like programs, but that might be a stretch. Except in recent years, the UW has been middling to good to once in a while very good, while the Cougars have traditionally been a bottom feeder. In 2001-02, they went 2-27 under Jenny Przekwas.
But this isn’t Tennessee against the most woebegone Southeastern Conference program. It isn’t as though Washington is a colossus. Think about this: The streak started in the 1995-96 season, and eight times in that span, the Huskies have had a 9-9 league record or poorer.
Yet they always, like the swallows and Capistrano, beat the Cougars. The year the streak started, in ’96, Washington was 10-8, WSU 8-10.
In 2000, Washington was 4-14 in league and won twice (WSU was 1-17).
In 2009, the Huskies were 3-15 and finished alone in the Pac-10 cellar. Didn’t matter. Two wins for the UW.
Off the top of my head, I can see one possible reason it might be so hard to end such frustration. Say the Huskies had a 10-game streak on the men’s side and came to Pullman with a 13-6 record, while the Cougars were a middling team at 9-9. You could envision a red-out, this-is-where-it-ends crusade where the arena is full and the atmosphere simply pulls the underdog team through.
On the other hand, the Cougars drew 1,310 Saturday night, and while that was a step up in support, it’s not such a gathering as to will its team to a win.
Entering that game, the improved Cougars were 3-1 in the Pac-12, the Huskies were 1-3, and WSU had a healthy 50 in the RPI computer rankings. WSU was without sharpshooting guard Ireti Amojo, out with a knee injury, but the Huskies were minus post player Regina Rogers, their leading scorer.
June Daugherty is the Cougar coach, owner of the last nine losses in a streak of which she was a major part on the other side as Washington coach. During those latest nine games, the Huskies have been 26-51 in the Pac-12.
Afterward, she said, “I didn’t think we played with a high level of energy that first 20 minutes at all.”
Chew on that one. If Daugherty’s observation is accurate, you didn’t have energy playing an arch-rival that, for 16 years, has beaten you like a carpet on a clothesline?
One more reason to be stupefied.

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