Rarely is an opening possession a harbinger of a basketball outcome.
But the two offensive rebounds Washington allowed Colorado State on its first possession Saturday night were telling. Those boards were the start of a crushing rebounding effort by the Rams, who walked out of Hec Edmundson Pavilion with a powerful 73-55 win over Washington.
Colorado State (4-0) finished with 24 offensive rebounds. Washington had 21 total rebounds. Those brutalizing totals left the Huskies, 2-3 and losers of back-to-back games in which they were outrebounded, wondering about their toughness and how to fix the rebounding problems.
“I’ve never been part of a team here that’s not been tough,” guard C.J. Wilcox said. “We’re just going to have to find it within ourselves to get tougher.”
Wilcox scored a career-high 28 points on 25 shots out of necessity. Senior guard Scott Suggs was again sidelined — he missed most of the loss against Albany after suffering a concussion — and the Huskies once again lost at home without him. Suggs has plantar fasciitis in his right foot and Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said Suggs is “week to week.”
Romar is unsure if Suggs, who has been in a walking boot all week, will be back for Wednesday’s game against Saint Louis.
Washington is also still missing power forward Shawn Kemp Jr., who is not expected back until mid-December.
Until then, the Huskies will have to figure out a way to be competitive on the boards. Pierce Hornung, Colorado State’s 6-foot-5, 215-pound small forward, had eight offensive rebounds. Washington had seven.
“I think it’s a mentality thing,” Wilcox said. “We can do as many drills as we want, but if guys’ minds aren’t in the right place, it’s not going to matter. I think our whole team’s mentality needs to change. We need to be tougher.”
Despite the bludgeoning on the boards, Washington held a six-point lead early in the second half. That prompted Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy to call timeout.
The game changed after Wilcox missed an open 3-pointer in transition. Abdul Gaddy (nine points, one assist, four turnovers, 4-for-12 from the field) stole the ball, led a 3-on-1 break, then delivered a pass late to Wilcox whose shot was blocked by Colorado State’s only defender, Greg Smith. Smith sprinted to the other end where he finished with a layup and was fouled after getting the ball back.
Gaddy turned the ball over on the next possession when Martin Breunig, who played a career-high 16 minutes, tried to hand it to him at the elbow.
The Rams converted that into a 3-pointer by Wes Eikmeier. It was the start of a 15-0 run by Colorado State. The Rams wore down Washington and led by as many as 20 points in the second half.
Romar said going into the game, matching Colorado State’s physical play would be key.
“We failed miserably in that area,” Romar said.
Washington has lost two consecutive home games for the first time since the end of the 2007-08 season. That team finished 16-17.
“Come back, regroup,” Romar said. “Understand we can’t continue to say it’s early in the season, because it won’t be after a while. But, it is early in the season.”firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas