The biggest story from Washington’s upset victory over Colorado on Sunday afternoon was point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who limped out of Hec Edmundson Pavilion with a sizeable brace supporting his left knee.
To be sure, Dinwiddie’s first-half injury was a big reason why the Huskies were able to whip No. 15 Colorado, 71-54, before an enthusiastic crowd of 6,742 that made more noise than any at Hec Ed this season.
Of course, C.J. Wilcox and his career-high 31 points – and career-best seven 3-pointers – may have had something to do with it, too.
All of that set aside, the bigger-picture view is that after a rough nonconference slate that produced five losses, the Huskies have started Pac-12 play with a 3-1 record and are playing like a different team than the one that lost to UC-Irvine in this building nearly two months ago.
Washington’s win Sunday was also its first victory over a top-25 team since Isaiah Thomas’ famed buzzer-beater lifted UW past No. 16 Arizona on March 11, 2011 in the Pac-10 tournament.
“You can see our guys taking more ownership of the defensive end of the floor, every day, every week,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “You can see our guys really believing offensively (in) what we’re doing. And then when you’re rewarded with a win, I think it just continues to increase that attitude and that belief.”
Before he dissected the win, Romar began his postgame press conference by saying he hopes Dinwiddie is OK. Colorado’s leading scorer planted his left leg during a transition opportunity late in the first half, then fell to the floor clutching his knee.
“It looked like he was about to pass, but Nigel (Williams-Goss) jumped in the lane and he had to make a last-minute adjustment, and that’s when he went down,” Wilcox said.
Dinwiddie was helped to the locker room with 2:52 to play, at which point the Buffaloes led, 25-22. They were outscored 49-29 after Dinwiddie went down. He scored seven points in 15 minutes.
CU coach Tad Boyle said there’s no diagnosis available yet, but that his gut feeling is “not good.”
“We’ll see,” Boyle said. “If he’s out, he’s out. I just feel so bad for the kid because he’s worked so hard.”
Colorado (14-3, 3-1 in Pac-12) wasn’t the same without him, though they didn’t shoot well in the first half – 34.4 percent – with him, either.
They were more stagnant in the second half. If Wesley Gordon wasn’t prolonging possessions by grabbing offensive rebounds – he had 13 boards total, seven of them off CU misses – or if Josh Scott wasn’t using his length to score inside (he scored a team-high 15 points), the Buffaloes were otherwise stifled by UW’s new-and-improved defense.
Second-leading scorer Askia Booker, a junior guard, did not score and missed each of his nine field-goal attempts.
With Dinwiddie out, UW guard Andrew Andrews said, “That’s one less point of emphasis that we have to worry about on the defensive end, so it let us focus a little bit more on Scott and Askia, which helped us defend them.”
Meanwhile, Wilcox played one of the best games of his career, harkening memories of his 24-point half against UCLA as a freshman. Wilcox made his first six shots of the second half – four of them 3-pointers – teaming with guard Andrew Andrews to throw dagger after dagger into the Buffaloes.
“(Wilcox) was just the recipient of good ball movement,” said Williams-Goss, who scored 12 points, “and he’s really good at moving without the ball.”
After trailing 29-26 at halftime, the Huskies (11-6, 3-1) reeled off a 30-12 run that spanned more than 10 minutes.
Wilcox said Dinwiddie’s absence opened up the floor for him on the offensive end, because the 6-foot-6 Colorado guard was shadowing him pretty well in the first half.
“He’s a good athlete,” Wilcox said. “I know they were trying to key on me and having him not leaving me as much as he normally would. He’s an athlete. It’s tough to score on athletes. When he went down, we as a team, but me as well, just had to take advantage of that.”
They did. He did. And so the progression continues, with UW heading into games next week at California and Stanford as one of the conference’s most surprising teams.
“I thought our team played excellent basketball, offensively and defensively, as a team,” Romar said. “We did it as a team, and that was great to see.”
HUSKIES GAME BOX
PLAYER OF THE GAME — C.J. Wilcox has been steady all season, but his performance on Sunday might have been the best of his career. Wilcox scored a career-best 31 points on 12-of-18 shooting, and made a career-best 7 of his 12 attempts from 3-point range. He scored 21 points in the second half, taking advantage of the absence of Buffaloes guard Spencer Dinwiddie.
IT WAS OVER WHEN — Wilcox made his final 3-pointer with 6:45 to go, giving UW a 61-43 lead.
STAT OF THE GAME — Colorado guard Askia Booker, the team’ second-leading scorer, scored zero points on 0-for-9 shooting in 24 minutes.
QUOTABLE — “When he draws a lot of attention, it makes it easier for me to get in the lane and find my shots. So every time he gets going, I kind of get happy. I’m probably going to be the recipient of them playing less defense on me.” – Andrew Andrews on Wilcox’s hot shooting day
WHAT IT MEANS — The final score of this game will be accompanied by an imaginary asterisk, because it would have been more competitive if Dinwiddie hadn’t goe down in the first half with a knee injury. Regardless, it’s the Huskies’ first victory over a ranked opponent since 2011, and it was the kind of game they have to win if they plan to play in the postseason. UW continues to prove that it won’t be an easy out in this conference this season.
NEXT UP — Washington at California on Wednesday at 8 p.m., Pac-12 Networks.