For all the success Klay Thompson has enjoyed during a brilliant career at Washington State, the high-scoring junior forward did have one black mark against him heading into Sunday's showdown with rival Washington.
He had never even reached double figures against the Huskies.
In four previous matchups against Washington, Thompson had averaged only 7.3 points per game on woeful 10 of 47 shooting. The Pac-10 player of the year candidate almost matched that scoring output on Sunday night alone, scoring 25 points to propel the Cougars to a crucial 87-80 victory over the first-place Huskies.
For a Washington State team that began conference play by getting swept by USC and UCLA in Los Angeles, Sunday's victory was the performance that restores hope of an NCAA tournament berth. The Cougars (15-6, 5-4) have a decent non-conference resume, though wins over Baylor and Gonzaga and losses to Kansas State and Butler all looked better a month ago than they do now.
One of the keys for Washington State may be finishing in the top three in the Pac-10. The fourth-place Cougars trail UCLA by a game but they have an opportunity to get on a tear right now with four straight coming up against the Oregon schools and the Bay Area schools.
The Cougars are in this position in part because of the play of Thompson, who worked on his strength and his conditioning this past summer to make sure he wouldn't fade in Pac-10 play the way he did a year ago.
Thompson has eclipsed 20 points in four of his past five games, increasing his season averages to 22.3 points and 43 percent shooting from 3-point range. He's also benefited from the presence of junior college transfer Faisal Aden, who is averaging 14.2 points in a sixth-man role and has helped alleviate some of the perimeter scoring burden on Thompson and sophomore point guard Reggie Moore.
Although Thompson hit a trio of 3-pointers against the Huskies, the bulk of his damage came off dribble penetration. He sank 9 of 18 shots and would have put up a few more points had he not uncharacteristically missed five free throws.
It's very possible Thompson will turn pro at the end of this season, so this may have been his second-to-last game against Washington.
At least now he's no longer winless and he finally has some bragging rights against his intrastate rivals.