It is to the point now for the Washington Huskies men’s basketball team, pummeled again and again by attrition, that its most significant accomplishment on Thursday night against Colorado was simply moving one game closer to ending the season.
And if you watched this one, you know that conclusion cannot come soon enough.
Injuries have depleted the Huskies’ roster, which featured only seven healthy scholarship players when UW suited up to face the Buffaloes at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Shawn Kemp Jr., a senior starting forward, again dressed in a sweatsuit, out with a calf injury after missing the last two games with a concussion. Freshman guard Donaven Dorsey sat next to him, sidelined by a toe injury suffered during Wednesday’s practice.
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So this ugly, uninteresting 64-47 loss to Colorado was all but inevitable. With little interior size, the Huskies struggled to defend the rim, allowing Buffaloes forward Josh Scott to score 21 points, the primary figure leading to CU’s 40-18 edge in the paint.
They couldn’t really score, either, shooting just 30.5 percent from the field, including an 8-for-31 clip in the first half — after which they trailed, 30-17, their lowest first-half output of the season.
That’s how it’s been since the Jan. 26 dismissal of star center Robert Upshaw — poor defense, not enough offense, and a whole bunch of losses.
One regular-season game remains — a likely Saturday blowout against 13th-ranked Utah — before the Pac-12 tournament, which begins Wednesday in Las Vegas. At this rate, it will end for UW on the same day.
“There’s not a whole lot we can do right now, except continue to try to find a way to go out and work,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said after his team’s 10th loss in its last 11 games. “We just don’t have a whole lot of margin for error right now.”
Without Kemp or Dorsey, UW coach Lorenzo Romar inserted little-used 7-footer Gilles Dierickx into the starting lineup. He hadn’t played more than nine minutes in a game all season. He played 34 on Thursday, scoring two points, grabbing six rebounds and leading the team — check the box score yourself — with three assists.
Give the big man credit for his effort — same with 5-foot-10, 155-pound walk-on guard Dan Kingma, who hustled his way to four points in a career-high 16 minutes.
At one point, Kingma found himself matched against a Colorado post player near the basket, trying his damndest to force him from scoring position — and that’s a fairly precise summation of what the Huskies are facing with just two available players taller than 6-foot-5.
“As coaches, you always feel like you can do better,” Romar said. “I thought Gilles Dierickx played as many minutes as he’s played for the Huskies, and I thought he fought. I thought Dan Kingma came in and hustled, did a nice job. We just ran out of bodies.”
The Huskies (15-14, 4-13 in Pac-12) needed more than 14 minutes and 30 seconds of game time to crack double-figures, at which point they trailed 22-11. Scott was a force in the first half, scoring 14 of his points before halftime, catching passes near the rim against UW’s 2-3 zone defense and converting 6-of-9.
The second half yielded better shooting — UW made its first six field-goal attempts, including three 3-pointers, to cut Colorado’s lead to 41-36 after fewer than five minutes of game time.
But Buffaloes forward Xavier Johnson scored six of his 11 points during a 9-0 run that put Colorado ahead 50-36, and after consecutive 3s by Andrew Andrews and Dan Kingma trimmed that deficit to 50-42, Colorado reeled off another six unanswered points to provide necessary separation.
“We were making shots, but we we just weren’t getting stops,” senior guard Mike Anderson said. “We were scoring, but they were scoring too; we just had to get stops.”
Romar added, “We spent so much time paying attention, just leaning maybe on a big. “Sometimes it was the size — it didn’t matter whether we were there or not. But then other times we were so concerned about their size we gave wide-open layups to some of the other guys.”
Washington made only one field goal in the final 9:22. It didn’t help that sophomore point guard Nigel Williams-Goss was apparently playing through flu-like symptoms. Romar said Williams-Goss didn’t dress for Wednesday’s practice, and the training staff considered administering intravenous therapy prior to the game. He played 37 minutes, but scored just eight points on 4-for-14 shooting.
Andrews led UW with 20 points. Anderson added 11 points and a team-best seven rebounds.
“We’ve just got to find a way, being shorthanded, to try to generate more productivity,” Romar said. “I think we put a lot of pressure on Andrew and Nigel. Nigel didn’t practice; he was throwing up (Wednesday). It was tough for him to go out there and get a lot done. We put a lot of pressure on those guards to score a lot of points. We need to be able to somehow generate points in other ways.”
The way things have gone for the Huskies during this star-crossed season, that endeavor might be more useful next year.