Altitude? Or attitude?
Whatever the problem was, Washington‘s first Pac-12 Conference visit to mile-high Boulder, Colo., went quickly from dream to nightmare as the Colorado Buffaloes had a remarkably easy time against the Huskies.
The 87-69 defeat was the biggest margin of defeat for UW this season, leaving the Huskies (8-6, 2-1) 0-5 away from home. Given the poor play in the final 30 minutes, it’s hard to believe that the Huskies started out with a 14-5 lead and forced turnovers in six of Colorado’s first eight possessions.
Washington then went casual on defense, allowing the Buffs to gather their wits. The Huskies missed easy layups, settled for quick jump shots from the perimeter and fell behind 40-30 at the half. The lead swelled to 24 points in the second half as the Huskies tried and failed with a zone defense, just as they had failed with man to man.
After three games of progress, including conference home wins against Oregon State and Oregon, it all went away.
“We had a relapse to three weeks ago,” said coach Lorenzo Romar. “It’s very unfortunate, because we had a lot of momentum going into this game.
“We didn’t guard, we didn’t share the ball, and we did a lot of standing around. That’s what we did when we weren’t playing well (earlier in the season). After the 14-5 lead, we took quick shots on multiple possessions, then they didn’t have to guard us very long. That is when we are at our very worst.”
The most startling proof was the Huskies had only seven assists on 27 field goals. Point guard Abdul Gaddy had a single assist in 33 minutes. Washington missed 16 of 20 from behind the arc, while the hosts were 8 for 14.
“It’s disappointing — I thought we had an idea of how we were supposed to play,” Romar said. “We were completely out of sync. Our offense allowed their good offense. They had all energy in the world because we didn’t make them guard us.
“We didn’t put the ball in the basket very well. Sometimes that happens. We go over that all the time: Are we going to guard to get us through that?”
Tony Wroten led Washington with 21 points, C.J. Wilcox had 19 and Terrence Ross 13 points and 10 rebounds, but picked up his fourth foul around the 13-minute mark. Again the biggest offensive shortcoming was on the front line. Washington’s two starting big men, Darnell Gant and Aziz N’Diaye, combined for four points and six rebounds.
Carlon Brown had 18 for Colorado and the Pac-12’s leading rebounder, Andre Roberson, hit his season average of 12 boards.
Colorado also had a huge advantage at the line, 25 of 28 compared to Washington’s 11 of 16.
“We just kind of fell apart,” said Wilcox. “This is one of the easiest road trips we have. It’s going to get harder.”
It may get harder as soon as Saturday in Salt Lake City, where formerly woebegone Utah rose up and beat Washington State 62-60 in overtime Thursday. It was Utah’s first conference victory and just the fourth overall. They lost by 40 to Colorado last week. The Huskies play the Utes at 11 a.m.
“I would be shocked,” Romar said, “if we didn’t play better than this.”