Thirteen years ago this week, Washington pulled off the unthinkable and upset Gonzaga 99-95 despite a 43-point performance from Adam Morrison. Several former Huskies look back at the win and give advice to UW before Wednesday’s game against the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs.
A freshman in 2005, Jon Brockman realized the rivalry between Washington and Gonzaga was special when the Dawg Pack, UW’s student section, camped out in front of what was known as Hec Edmundson Pavilion the night before the big game.
Thirteen years later, Brockman remembers the anticipation he felt before the Huskies’ 99-95 upset win over their archrival.
“The game was hyped up a lot,” Brockman said. “Everyone was very excited. The place was packed. And the atmosphere was crazy. But the thing I remember most was Adam Morrison. He was, the man.”
Who could forget the mustachioed marvel with the long shaggy hair and the sweetest jump shot in the country?
“You had to respect him,” said Ryan Appleby, UW’s three-point specialist who holds the school record for nine 3-pointers in a game. “He had his own style of play. He had his own personality. The way he could score the ball in college was Larry Birdesque.
“He was a tough competitor and just fearless. He would shoot the ball anytime and anywhere. Every time you released it you figured it was going in.”
Morrison was nearly unstoppable that night while scoring 43 points. He sank just 1 of 8 three-pointers, which illustrates how sensational he was inside the arc where he made 17 of 21 shots.
Most of those baskets were against Bobby Jones.
“It was kind of frustrating to be honest with you, but we knew he was going to get his points,” said Jones, a senior 6-foot-6 defensive stalwart. “He could score in an assortment of ways.”
Washington entered the game undefeated at 6-0 and ranked 18th while Gonzaga was 4-1 and 6th.
The Huskies had two streaks in mind that night. They wanted to preserve their 28-game home winning streak, which was the longest in the country.
And they wanted to snap a seven-game losing streak to the Zags.
“It was just a war,” said Jamaal Williams, a senior forward and UW’s second-leading scorer that season. “Just back and forth from the first bucket I scored to the last bucket that I had.
“Adam Morrison was unreal. Bobby did a great job, hand in face and everything, but those shots kept going in and was like ‘Damn, we’re in trouble today.’ But we fought back. We were ready for that war.”
This game had it all.
Morrison outplayed Brandon Roy, who fouled out with just 10 points and five turnovers. There were nine lead changes in the final 11:05 when Roy went to the bench for good.
Without their star, the Huskies leaned heavily on Williams, who tallied a team-high 22 points on 10-of-16 shooting.
Brockman wasn’t much of a scorer at the time, but he battled in the post against Zags big man J.P. Batista, who finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
UW freshman guard Justin Dentmon came of age and tallied 17 points. Jones provided 15 points and Appleby proved to be the X-factor while tallying 14 points, including four 3-pointers off the bench.
As good as Huskies were offensively, the game was decided on one last defensive stand.
Down 97-95 with 15 seconds, Morrison had the ball and hopes of delivering the Huskies another heart-breaking loss.
“I didn’t know what he was going to do because the dude was on fire,” Jones said. “But I knew he was going to take the shot. And I knew I had to make it difficult for him. I was just nervous.”
Morrison’s three-pointer from the wing sailed long and Zags forward Sean Mallon’s missed a point-blank putback before Jones capped the scoring with a pair of free throws.
“That was our first big test that year and it proved to us that we were as good as we thought we were,” Williams said. “And from there, we kept rolling.”
Washington finished the season in the NCAA tournament Sweet 16.
The next year, the Huskies lost 97-77 at Gonzaga in a game Brockman also remembers because “you could feel the court moving from their student section jumping up and down.”
Following a nine-year hiatus, the series resumed in 2015 and the Zags have claimed three lopsided defeats, including a 97-70 victory last year at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Washington (6-2) returns to Spokane to face No. 1 Gonzaga (8-0) at McCarthey Athletic Center where they haven’t won since 1944. In their last trip, UW lost 98-71 in 2016.
Jones, an Compton, Calif. native, calls the UW-GU series “the Apple Cup of basketball.” But considering the recent results, he doesn’t believes it’s a rivalry anymore.
“I don’t see it as a rivalry, I see domination,” Jones said. “But it can’t stay like this forever so I guess that’s the silver lining.
“They’re a great program and kudos to them. I’m not going to let my so-called hatred for Gonzaga deny me from speaking the truth. But times have changed. We have a different coach in Mike Hopkins and different set of players with a new system. Maybe it’s time for a change in results and it’ll become a real rivalry.”
The last time the Huskies beat the Zags, they were lead by four seniors in Roy, Williams, Jones and Mike Jensen.
Williams believes UW’s four seniors (Noah Dickerson, Matisse Thybulle, David Crisp and Dominic Green) will need to provide leadership to pull off the upset.
“They’ve been together for four years, experienced some highs and lows, so there shouldn’t be anything that rattles them when it comes to college basketball,” Williams said. “You’ve been to hostile environments. You’ve seen different types of offenses. They have to go in there with supreme confidence.”
To beat the Zags, Appleby believes Washington will need a season-best performance from a perimeter attack that shoots 32.1 percent on three-pointers.
“If they can make outside shots at a clip of like 55 or 60 percent, that’s the X-factor,” Appleby said. “Gonzaga has got a lot of size and experienced guards. It’s going to be difficult on the inside and rebounding.
“So whether its Thybulle, Green or Crisp or those three combined, Washington has to make outside shots.”