SEATTLE (AP) — Cameron Dollar knows the annual showdown with crosstown rival Washington will only truly return to being the rivalry it was in the 1950s, 60s and 70s when his young Seattle program can once again get the better of the Huskies.
Maybe that time is coming sooner rather than later.
“That’s how rivalries are. If you never win it’s just a gathering, just a meeting,” said Dollar, now in his fourth year as Seattle’s coach. “The thing is, and I’m probably speaking for (Washington coach Lorenzo) Romar here but I think he’d agree, the thing that is cool about it it’s not even about the two schools. It’s about a celebration of basketball in the area. It just happens to be that we are the conduits to celebrate it. That’s what probably makes it even neater that once a year you get to put the spotlight on just basketball in Seattle and everybody kind of meets and everybody hangs and everybody comes and we are the teams that meet and get to enjoy it.”
The Redhawks and Huskies renew their showdown for city supremacy on Thursday night at KeyArena, with both teams stumbling through the early part of their schedules. While Seattle’s 3-3 start to the year was expected — especially with road games at Virginia and Stanford — Washington’s 4-4 start is raising concern.
The Huskies have dropped three of their last five overall and their three home losses are already the most since 2008. The last time Washington had three non-conference losses at home was 2000, before Romar arrived back at his alma mater.
The high-post offense Washington installed in the offseason has yet to click, there have been significant stretches of defensive lapses and the Huskies are leaning perhaps too much on guard C.J. Wilcox at both ends of the floor.
All those concerns were highlighted again last Saturday when Washington fell behind by 18, staged a furious rally, but still fell 76-73 to Nevada. Injuries haven’t helped Washington early, but the overall concerns remain for a team that a year ago won the Pac-12 regular-season title.
“They’re 3-3. We’re 4-4, so I don’t know who is better right now,” Romar said. “We better go play. We’re not looking at it as we’re the higher profile school.”
While Seattle doesn’t yet own an impressive win, its three losses have come against quality competition. The Redhawks were blown out at Virginia but came back with a strong performance at Stanford, leading late in the second half before the Cardinal pulled away for a 68-57 win.
Dollar said being more competitive at Stanford was a sign of how his young team is starting to learn to play around one another.
“(Virginia) was early, the comfort level with each other, me feeling them out, them feeling me out. Understanding and accepting roles and being comfortable with those roles,” Dollar said. ” … (It’s) just a kind of process of evolving and not because you had bad chemistry but you had to develop a flow with each other.”
Since making the move back to Division I, the Redhawks are 0-4 against the Huskies. The city matchup was completely one-sided in favor of the Huskies for the first three meetings since the Redhawks began the transition back to Division I hoops, with the closest being a 21-point Washington win in 2011. But Seattle has closed the gap on the Huskies.
A year ago, Washington needed to hold off a late rally by the Redhawks for a 91-83 win on the Huskies’ home floor.
While a true rivalry needs success from both sides, Romar believes that competitive edge between the Redhawks and Huskies is present even if 1978 was the last time Seattle got the better of Washington.
“Whether we beat them or they beat us, I don’t know if that’s going to be the biggest issue in terms of a rivalry,” Romar said. “They keep getting better. I know that.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.