BOULDER, Colo. – The questions remain.
If you asked any member of the Washington Huskies men’s basketball team earlier in the week what they needed to do win on the road, they all had the same answer. Play good defense, take good shots and keep their composure.
Sounds easy, right?
Not for this team. Nothing comes easy away from Seattle.
The Huskies fell Thursday to 0-5 in games outside of Hec Edmundson Pavilion, suffering through an 87-69 thrashing by the Colorado Buffaloes at the Coors Event Center.
For three- to four-minute spans to start each half, the Huskies (8-6 overall, 2-1 Pacific-12 Conference) did the things they had preached. The rest of the time, it was more of the same – bad shots, worse defense and a composure level that bordered on panic, given the situation.
“Coming into the game, I felt like we were really prepared,” said sophomore guard C.J. Wilcox, who came off the bench to score 19 points. “But in the back of our heads we knew we hadn’t gotten a win on the road, and it’s just kind of there. And things start going in the opposite direction and we just fall apart.”
The way the Huskies played stunned coach Lorenzo Romar. While no road game is easy, Romar thought his team was playing its best basketball of the season following last week’s home wins over Oregon State and Oregon.
“I was really disappointed,” Romar said. “I thought we had made progress.”
Instead, his team regressed.
“We did things that were unexpected of us,” Romar said. “We didn’t guard like we should have. We didn’t share the ball, things of that nature.”
Colorado (10-4, 2-0) shot 49.1 percent from the field and 57 percent from 3-point range. The Buffaloes abused the Huskies’ man-to-man defense and exploited the 2-3 zone Romar employed.
“It was one of those nights where nothing worked,” Romar said.
Offensively, the Huskies had six assists on 27 baskets. It didn’t help that Washington’s post players couldn’t finish layups when guards made the extra pass. But the Huskies had far too many possessions of one or no passes before a shot being attempted.
“They were quick shots,” Romar said. “On the floor, you have to realize, ‘all right, we’re going to work it around, and if we miss, at least we are going to make them guard us.’ We didn’t do that.”
So why did they take the quick shots?
“You get down, people get desperate and they forget about the offense, and they just drive,” Wilcox said. “That’s what happens when you get just six assists.”
The Huskies jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead, while Colorado looked out of sync. The lead ballooned to 14-5 after Wilcox buried a 3-pointer and made a floater in the lane.
But the Buffaloes ripped off a 14-2 run to take a 19-16 lead. Washington would grab its last lead, 22-21, a few minutes later on back-to-back Tony Wroten baskets.
But the lead was erased in the oddest of ways. Senior Carlin Brown found himself with the ball and the shot clock winding down. He drove the lane and found himself caught in the air in no position to take a good shot. Instead he fired the ball off the backboard and then sprinted to the hoop, grabbing the ball out of the air and laying it in before the shot-clock expired.
“Those plays kill you,” Wroten said. “We play good defense for 32 seconds, and in the last three seconds they get a play like that and it gets the crowd into it.”
The play gave the Buffaloes a lead they would never surrender. Colorado outscored Washington 17-8 from there to end the half and take a 40-30 lead.
Like the first half, the Huskies again started off strong after the break. They whittled the lead down to six points twice in the first three minutes.
“We couldn’t sustain it,” Romar said.
Washington got no closer.
Abdul Gaddy fouled Spencer Dinwiddie on a 3-point attempt. Dinwiddie sank all three free throws to put the lead back to nine. From there Colorado pushed its lead to as much 24.
Colorado had five players score in double figures with Brown leading the way with 18 points. The Buffaloes’ Askia Booker came off the bench to hit three 3-pointers to lead Colorado’s 8-of-14 accuracy from long range.
Of Washington’s 69 total points, 53 came from the trio of Wilcox, Wroten and Terrence Ross.
Wroten led all scorers with 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting, but was just 3-of-8 from the foul line. He also had three assists, seven steals and five turnovers.
Ross added 13 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.
Washington’s starting posts – Aziz N’Diaye and Darnell Gant combined to go 1-for-9 from the field and 2-for-2 from the free-throw line to score a total of four points. They had six rebounds between them.
“We have to be a mentally and physically tougher team,” Romar said. “That’s the whole thing.”