This game sticks with you.
That’s what David Crisp wants the Huskies to know.
Anytime you play Gonzaga, Washington’s so-called rival that’s won 12 of the past 13 meetings including five in a row, it’s a night to remember.
“It’s going to be sold out,” said Crisp, a former UW point guard who has played – and lost – four times against the Zags. “The atmosphere is going to be electric. It’s one of those games that you dream about playing in. Both teams are going to bring it. It’s going to be a dogfight. Both teams are going to play hard.
“And you know no matter what happens, you’ll remember this game for the rest of your life.”
Certainly, Crisp will never forget last year’s 81-79 defeat at Gonzaga in front of a raucous, sellout crowd at McCarthey Athletic Center, which was decided in the final seconds.
The Huskies trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half and were down 79-71 in the final three minutes before storming back with an 8-0 run to tie the score with 9.4 seconds left.
Crisp knew what was about to happen next, but the Huskies were unable to prevent big man Rui Hachimura, who scored a game-high-tying 26 points, from catching the ball near the free-throw line and sinking a 15-foot dagger with 0.6 seconds left to secure the win.
“If somebody would have asked me before the play what’s going to happen, man I promise you I would have said they’re going to get the ball to Rui in the high post and he’s going to turn and shoot,” Crisp said. “He was getting that shot all game. We gave up that area a lot because teams weren’t shooting a high percentage from the area, especially if we didn’t get the steal or the block by Matisse (Thybulle).”
Fast forward to Sunday’s 4 p.m. rematch at Alaska Airlines Arena on ESPN2.
The rivalry resets considering both teams sent two players to the NBA draft and reloaded with four new starters.
Despite the massive turnover, No. 9 Gonzaga (9-1), which led the nation last year in scoring, is still among the top offenses while averaging 86.2 points to rank fifth among Division I teams.
And No. 22 Washington (7-1) takes the court against its bitter nemesis with arguably its most talented team since its last win in 2005.
But will the Huskies fare any better this time than they have in the past five meetings?
“It took us a while to bring things back and get on what you would say an even playing field with them,” said former UW Husky Dominic Green, noting the previous four games against GU had been blowout losses before last year. “But momentum is with us. I know we would have won that game last year if we were at home. … So I see things continuing from there. We got close and now we’re ready to get it done.”
Crisp added: “I think that (they) got them. I feel like (they) got extreme talent. I see they’re mixing it up this year and they’re playing more man to go along with that zone.
“If they’re doing that, then we give ourselves a great chance to win. When you’ve got talent and got size and athleticism, that’s more than half the battle. Then if you can play together as one, it’s hard to beat teams like that.”
For the first time in recent memory, Washington seemingly has the big-bodied personnel to match Gonzaga, which is led once again by a dominant front line that includes sophomore Filip Petrusev (15.7 points per game and 8.4 rebounds), senior Killiain Tillie (13.4, 5.0) and junior Corey Kispert (13.6, 4.0).
While scouting the Bulldogs, junior guard Nahziah Carter was impressed with their offensive chemistry.
“Their bigs’ high-low passing, they’re pretty good at that,” he said. “And they really pound it in scoring on the inside. They have some really good shooters and people that can push the ball. So they’re a complete team.”
The Huskies counter with the star trio of Isaiah Stewart (16.5 ppg and 7.6 rpg), Jaden McDaniels (15.0, 5.0) and Carter (14.6 and 6.6), who lead a young team that includes seven players who are 6-foot-9 or taller.
“We were always undersized going up against them, but now Washington may be the bigger team,” Crisp said. “They would use their size to wear us down, but I don’t see them doing that this time. We can stand toe to toe with them and look the in the eye.”
Washington upset then-No. 16 Baylor last month in Anchorage, Alaska, but before thinking about beating the Bulldogs, the young Huskies will need to manage their emotions in their biggest home game of the year.
“The days leading up to this game, there’s a lot of preparation because everybody is really focused,” Green said. “During the game it’s real intense. The blood is flowing. The heart is pumping. And until you’ve played in a game like that, nobody can really prepare you for it.
“You just want to go out there and make no mistakes because they don’t really mess up that much. Coach (Mark) Few has got them to where they’re a really well-oiled machine. Any error you make, there’s a chance that you’re going to get burned for it.”
Crisp added: “It’s a big game and you feel that because everyone is talking about it on campus, your family and friends. But the trick is to not get too hyped up and treat it just like any other game.”
It’s inaccurate to say Sunday’s showdown will make or break Washington’s season, but the outcome may have ramifications in the postseason and beyond.
“We did a lot of great things at Washington like winning the Pac-12 title and getting back to the NCAA tournament that I’m extremely proud of and will cherish for the rest of my life,” Crisp said. “But I’d be lying if I said not beating Gonzaga burns me up.
“We couldn’t get over that hump and that team had our number every time. I have to live with that. And I don’t wish that on no Husky.”