Beating No. 2 Kansas and becoming the biggest story in college basketball for 24 hours was an experience for Washington.
To hear Huskies coach Mike Hopkins and his players Saturday, that’s all it was: an experience.
UW (7-2) claims it won’t let a single game against a national title favorite alter its collective perspective. Such an outlook could prove vital when facing another powerhouse in No. 12 Gonzaga (7-2) at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Alaska Airlines Arena.
“We’ve talked every game is [about] always moving forward, always trying to get better,” Hopkins said. “Getting them to buy in with your game plan and how we want to play.
“You could have the greatest game plan in the world ... but the kids have to go out an execute it. They did.”
Several items went according to plan for the Huskies in their 74-65 win over the Jayhawks.
UW took away the 3-pointer and forced KU to shoot 3 of 15 for 25 percent. Coming into the game, the Jayhawks were shooting 43.5 percent and averaging 35 points from downtown.
Only six teams have scored more from 3 than Kansas this season.
Junior point guard and Tacoma native David Crisp went from scorer to facilitator. He finished tied for a game-high seven assists while also shooting 2 of 5 from 3.
“It was a great win obviously but we executed the game plan,” Crisp said. “On our end, it was like ‘we put out a game plan, executed it’ and that’s what we go into every game doing.
“We got that done. For everybody to see us do that against them, that’s what made it so special. Everybody can see the progress we’re making.”
Recent events have led to UW winning five straight games for the first time since the 2014-15 season. UW opened with 11 consecutive wins only to finish 16-15.
Two of the team’s wins that year came against No. 13 San Diego State and No. 15 Oklahoma.
The Huskies now find themselves in position to upset the No. 2 team in America and upset a cross-state rival that’s also ranked — in the span of five days.
From Crisp to freshman forward Hameir Wright, they know nothing will come easy against the Bulldogs.
“I always thought of Gonzaga like the New England Patriots: They’re always finding some type of way to win games,” Wright said. “Growing up, I will never see this team in the regular season but come tournament time, they’re always a high seed.”
Of course, there’s a bit of a different look to this year’s tilt.
Hopkins knows Gonzaga coach Mark Few from their previous interactions and had nothing but praise for his counterpart.
“He’s one of the great coaches and great people in the business,” Hopkins said. “I’ve known him from USA Basketball ... I have so much respect for him and what he’s built.”
Wright, who grew up in Albany, N.Y., knows about the Bulldogs from what he watched on television as a child.
Crisp’s experience is a bit different. Growing up in Washington, he knew about Gonzaga and the team’s success under Mark Few.
Over time, Crisp would have a more personal interaction with the Bulldogs. He’s 0-2 against the Bulldogs and the Huskies haven’t won a contest against them since the 2005-06 season.
“They had a great team and one of the best teams [in America] last year with that team,” Crisp said about the Gonzaga team that beat UW 98-71 and finished as the national runner-up with a 37-2 mark. “I’m definitely thinking about it because I played terrible and the game didn’t go well. I’m trying to make up for that.”
Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark
NO. 12 GONZAGA (7-2) vs. WASHINGTON (7-2)
5 p.m., Hec Edmundson Pavilion, Seattle
TV: Pac-12 Network Radio: 1000-AM, 97.7-FM.
All-time series: UW leads, 29-16.
Statistics for 2017-18:
3 Jonathan Williams, F (6-9, r-sr.): 14.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg.
13 Josh Perkins, G (6-3, r-fr.): 14.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg.
33 Killian Tillie, F (6-10, so.): 11.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg.
24 Corey Kispert, F (6-6, fr.): 10.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg.
00 Silas Melson, G (6-4, sr.): 11.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg.
1 David Crisp, G (6-0, jr.): 12.9 ppg, 3.4 apg.
15 Noah Dickerson, F (6-8, jr.): 16.0 ppg, 8.7 rpg.
5 Jaylen Nowell, G (6-4, fr.): 17.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg.
4 Matisse Thybulle, G (6-5, jr.): 12.1 ppg, 3.3 spg.
33 Sam Timmins, F (6-10, so.): 5.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg.
Scouting report: All the talk around the Gonzaga-Washington tilt has changed given UW’s upset over No. 2 Kansas in Kansas City, Mo. this past Wednesday. For the Huskies, this will be the 25th time they’ve faced Top-15 teams in back-to-back games since the 1967-68 season ... UW has received a jolt from freshman forward Hameir Wright. The former four-star prospect is averaging 8.3 points and 5.3 rebounds over his past three games. ... Gonzaga raced out to a 5-0 start but is 2-2 in its past four games with good reason. The Zags lost a 111-105 double overtime heartbreaker to No. 5 Florida in the PK80 Tournament in late November. Gonzaga’s most recent performance was a 88-72 loss to No. 4 Villanova this past Tuesday in the Jimmy V Classic.
Ryan S. Clark