The Washington Huskies lost a basketball game to the Colorado Buffaloes here on Thursday night. Star guard Markelle Fultz didn’t play. He has a sore knee. He’s day to day. So the game went about how you would expect: poorly.
The Huskies lost, 81-66, trailing by double-digits for most of the second half in a game they never really had a chance to win.
So if this game is remembered at all, it will be for a bizarre, off-court incident involving UW forward Malik Dime and two members of Colorado’s student section.
Around halftime, the official Twitter account of CU’s student section — dubbed “the C-Unit” — tweeted that Dime, who is recovering from a broken pinky and has not played since early January, walked from UW’s bench to a man seated in the CU student section and slapped him.
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Later in the second half, the man confirmed the incident, though he gave his name only as “Brian” and did not want to comment further, other than to say “everything’s been made right.”
BSN Denver reported that Dime actually slapped two students in one swing, but that neither planned to press charges, and that Dime apologized after the game. Dime remained on UW’s bench throughout the game, though he sat close to the coaching staff in the second half. The man who identified himself as Brian conferred with CU security, left briefly with a staffer and returned, laughing.
The C-Unit Twitter account sent another message later, writing that Dime “made amends after the game. Big time Malik fans over here.”
Said UW coach Lorenzo Romar of Dime’s alleged slap: “I’m aware of it. I don’t know anything about the details. We will look into it.”
Can this season get any worse?
The Huskies fell to 9-15 overall and 2-10 in Pac-12 play, their losing streak now at six games. Fultz, the Pac-12’s leading scorer and the projected No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA draft, wore street clothes and sat on the bench. He helped his teammates stretch before the game. He helped contest warm-up jumpers. He helped rebound during shooting drills.
But his team was helpless without him. And lest you cut the Huskies too much slack for missing Fultz, it should be noted the Buffaloes played without two starters, seniors Xavier Johnson and Wesley Gordon, who remain suspended for violating team rules. So it could have been worse.
It wasn’t great, regardless. The Huskies seemed to play hard, keeping the lead below double-digits for much of the first half. But Fultz’s absence was obvious: UW committed 10 first-half turnovers as the Buffaloes wisely pressured in backcourt, particularly when sophomore guard David Crisp went to the bench with early foul trouble.
On one possession, UW committed a 10-second violation after sophomore guard Dominic Green — he started for Fultz — was trapped in a corner, attempted to pass to the other side of the court and threw the ball off the Huskies’ own basket.
“We know if (Fultz is) not in there, we’re a different basketball team,” Romar said. “There’s no doubt about it.”
Colorado turned 14 UW turnovers into 14 points. George King led CU with 21 points and Derrick White added 16.
“They’re really long and athletic when they do that press,” said junior guard Dan Kingma, who played a career-high 21 minutes. “But I think a lot of times, Markelle is that guy breaking it. Maybe it’s just an adjustment for us to have other guys step into that role and break the press. It’s not like it’s an excuse, but we just had a tough time with it tonight.”
Kingma, the seldom-used former walk-on, finished with six points and an assist without a turnover. Bitumba Baruti, a seldom-used freshman guard, was the Huskies’ first sub off the bench. Greg Bowman, a walk-on, played in the first half for the first time in his career.
The Huskies trailed 42-31 at halftime and trailed by 16 points in the second half before making a mini-run to trim the margin to 62-52 with 8:55 to play. Noah Dickerson cut it to single digits, at 65-56, with a pair of free throws with 7:01 to play. And Matisse Thybulle cut the margin to 68-61 on a 3-pointer with 5:44 to play.
But Colorado forward Lucas Siewert answered that basket with a 3-pointer of his own. White followed an empty UW possession with a pull-up jumper. Bryce Peters drove for a dunk. King made a pair of free throws. King drove and scored. Just like that, an 11-0 run made it 79-61, and the game was over.
“I thought our guys came out with the right attitude. I thought our guys came out and put forth a good effort,” Romar said. “But it’s difficult when someone you kind of build your whole offense around, and he’s out. He does so much for our team, obviously, but I did not sense our guys were having a pity party amongst themselves.”
Still, the Huskies had little offensive rhythm without Fultz, shooting 42.9 percent from the field. And they allowed Colorado to shoot 50.8 percent, struggling to contest shots while allowing 13 offensive rebounds and 18 second-chance points. The Buffaloes moved the ball to the middle of UW’s zone defense, made jumpers and fervently pursued their misses.
Dickerson lamented those, saying the Buffaloes “crashed, and they crashed hard.” He scored 14 points and had nine rebounds. Crisp led UW with 17 points. Thybulle added 11.
On Saturday, the Huskies visit Utah, which defeated them 94-72 in Seattle earlier this season.
As if that doesn’t make the matchup intimidating enough, remember: Fultz played in that game. After Thursday’s game, Romar said only that Fultz remains day to day, his injury another miserable chapter in a season that cannot end soon enough.