Seattle University waited 17 long years to get a basketball rematch with the University of Washington. Once an annual two-game series was hammered out by the schools and put in place, the Chieftains misfired once in the first renewal game, but not the second.
On Jan. 2, 1970, they beat the Huskies for the first time in school history, taking down a 14th-ranked team 80-72 in front of screaming 13,000 fans at the Seattle Center Coliseum. Gaining the upper hand over their neighbors from Montlake brought total satisfaction.
"It was like a kid beating up a big guy down the street," SU coach Bucky Buckwalter said. "We had looked forward to it for a couple of years. It was finally done."
With Seattle U returning to full Division I championship eligibility for the first time in 33 years -- when the Redhawks host Washington in a women's soccer match at Championship Field on Aug. 17 -- this is the 30th in a series of 33 stories replaying memorable SU events previously held at the NCAA's top level (1952-80).
In 1953, SU and the UW met for the first time in basketball because they had to, both qualifying for the NCAA Tournament and playing themselves into an inevitable second-round pairing in Corvallis, Ore. The game's build-up, however, didn't match the end result. The Huskies pulled away for a 92-70 victory on the way to the Final Four.
With two fairly new coaching staffs in place -- Tex Winter for the Huskies and Buckwalter for SU -- the schools agreed to play each other twice annually, beginning with the 1969-70 season. The UW won the first game of the start-up series with the Chieftains, an 86-78 decision at home.
At the Coliseum, in the third game between the inner-city rivals, SU made its breakthrough. With guard Tommy Little throwing down a game-high 29 points from long range, and forward "Leapin' Lou" West supplying 19 points and 14 rebounds, the Chieftains pulled away in the second half.
"We had great performances from Tommy Little and Lou West," Buckwalter said of two players who met great misfortune once out of college -- Little was killed in Washington, D.C., while West became seriously ill. "Tommy shot the ball well that night. Lou was a terrific talent. He was a very emotional player."
UW center Steve Hawes left the game with a broken leg and SU took advantage, moving from a 39-35 halftime lead to a 51-14 edge five minutes into the next half, and finally to its biggest lead at 62-50 with eight minutes left to play.
The teams split the series again the following year, with the Chiefs taking an 86-81 victory at the Coliseum. They had to savor that one for a long time, because the UW won the subsequent 10 games. The series was discontinued in 1980 before it was restarted in 2009. Through it all, the first victory over the Huskies still resonates.
"So many people had looked forward to it, so it was nice it finally happened," Buckwalter said. "I know we went and celebrated that night."
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