The Washington Huskies traveled across the state to Spokane to face the number 8 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs in the long-awaited revival of a basketball rivalry.
For the first time in nearly ten years to the day, the Washington Huskies will play the Gonzaga Bulldogs on a non-neutral court, a part of the home-and-home agreement the two most popular college basketball programs in the state reached back in 2014.
On December 9th, 2006, after a Gonzaga win in Spokane (We in Seattle like to call it Spokompton–just another good-natured jab at our friends to the east. It’s actually a beautiful town.), Washington canceled their series agreement with their Eastern Washington counterparts.
There was much intrigue into the decision to cancel the series with Gonzaga. Ex-UW assistant coach Cameron Dollar came under investigation by the NCAA after Bulldogs coach Mark Few reported apparent recruiting violations by Dollar in 2002. Both programs were after forward Josh Heytvelt, who eventually committed to and played for the Zags.
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Few, along with former Eastern Washington University coach Ray Giacoletti and former Washington State coach Paul Graham complained to the NCAA about Dollar improperly contacting high school recruits during a quiet period. Back in 2006, Washington Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar denied conjecture that he cancelled the series with Gonzaga due to Few snitching on Dollar and cited the chance to play nationally televised games as the reason.
No matter what the reasons are for the long hiatus of the Washington-Gonzaga rivalry (Gonzaga defeated the Huskies in the Bahamas 80-64 last season), as The Gang says in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, “the rivalry’s back on!”
Adding further intrigue to tonight’s clash of East versus West, public versus private, secular versus Catholic is former Washington Huskies point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who transferred from UW to Gonzaga after two seasons in Seattle. NWG has shown offensive promise on a team that doesn’t need him to carry as big of a load, and he could have something waiting for Romar and the Dawgs.
The Bulldogs are more balanced than they have been in the past, when they’ve relied on big-time collegiate stars like Domantas Sabonis in recent years. So far this season, the 8-0 Bulldogs have five players averaging ten points or more per game. Cal transfer Jordan Matthews is a little less than a point from becoming the sixth.
Gonzaga’s guard combination of Williams-Goss and Josh Perkins can be deadly. Perkins is a premier three-point shooter, hitting over fifty percent of his treys on the year. The Zags, of course, also have seven-foot behemoth Przemek Karnowski, who’s in the midst of attracting NBA lottery pick attention this season.
The Washington Huskies are reeling after dropping two straight games to Texas Christian University, a team expected to finish at the bottom of the Big 12. LoRo told reporters recently that he likes the team’s potential and was encouraged by their defensive effort early in the second game against the Horned Frogs. But this team has a long way to go to be a contender when Pac-12 play begins. They have the talent to hang with nationally-ranked teams like Gonzaga, thanks to Markelle Fultz, but they have yet to put together a complete game of basketball. Maybe that ends tonight against an unfamiliar but bitter rival. Tip off is at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.