The Pac-12’s second-leading scorer has a season-low eight points on 2-for-10 shooting, and the Huskies (13-11, 5-6 Pac-12) fell behind immediately by plenty for their sixth straight road loss. Next: home Wednesday against Stanford.
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
BOULDER, Colo. – The light shining through an otherwise dark night against these rampaging Buffaloes?
The Huskies left immediately following Sunday night's game here -- on a charter jet ride from Denver through Idaho Falls (for fuel) -- to return home. They are 11-2 at Alaska Airlines Arena this season, winners 14 times in their last 17 games there. And that’s where five of UW's final seven regular-season games will be, beginning Wednesday against Stanford at 6 p.m.
“We have to make hay in (our) barn, as they say,” coach Lorenzo Romar said after a 91-65 loss to Colorado inside the thrilled Coors Events Center.
“If there was ever a time to now make a run, we've got to do it."
The Huskies started cold against a fired-up home team still smarting over a blowout loss to them a month ago. And they never recovered.
Three days after UW lost at Utah, and before the roaring locals here could get all the outside snow off their boots, the Huskies trailed 10-0 and 13-2. Nine minutes into the game Washington was down by 17.
“Colorado, wow,” Romar said. “They knocked us back on our heels right away.”
C.J. Wilcox, the second-leading scorer in the Pac-12, made two of 10 shots and was 0 for 7 from 3-point range for a season-low eight points.
He said afterward his legs were tired.
“I don’t know if it was the altitude, or the game from Utah, but they were a little heavy, yeah,” Wilcox said of his rare way-off night.
He wasn’t alone; UW shot just 32 percent.
Credit Wilcox for standing tall against a cinder-block wall outside the Huskies’ locker room and acknowledging the responsibility is his to see his team through games like this.
Through all games, for that matter.
It’s a burden the eighth Husky to score 1,500 points at UW admitted is difficult, being “The Man” expected to have huge scoring nights every night for a team with six new faces this season.
“It is,” Wilcox said. “You know, just being that fifth-year senior, you’ve got the responsibility to bring it every game – no matter what’s going on.
“I wasn’t able to do that tonight.”
Nigel Williams-Goss scored 15 points but was just 5 of 13 from the field. Perris Blackwell added 10 points for Washington (13-11, 5-6 Pac-12), which fell to 2-7 on the road and lost its sixth straight away game since beginning conference play with a win at Arizona State on Jan. 2.
“We just didn’t come out with the energy and focus that we needed on the road,” Williams-Goss, now averaging 13.3 points per game in his debut season, said of Sunday. “No reason. We just didn’t.”
The resulting was alarming, but the Huskies say they are not alarmed. It’s an important distinction for these final seven games of the regular season and then the Pac-12 tournament that begins March 12 in Las Vegas.
To think, these Huskies entered last weekend’s game at Washington State with a chance for second in the league.
“I wouldn’t have guessed that if we were going to come out on the short end it would be like this. I thought we would be better tonight,” Romar said.
“You know, we haven’t done a good job on the road. The first weekend when we went to Arizona I thought we played very good basketball. We haven’t really been able to duplicate that since.
“We’ve been playing much better at home, and our next five out of seven are at home. So I wouldn’t say I’m alarmed.”
Colorado (18-6, 7-4) made six of its first nine shots from 3-point range, as the Dawgs missed quick shots and committed turnovers that fed the Buffaloes’ romp. When the game did slow into half-court sets, the Huskies got stuck behind screens that freed Buffs for wide-open looks. Romar went to a zone for one possession to mitigate CU’s perimeter screens – and the Buffaloes got an offensive rebound and score against that.
Yet the Huskies showed some grit in getting back within seven points, 35-30. Mike Anderson played a first half great for far more than his four points and five rebounds. He was aggressive offensively in the lane, tapping balls out to keep possessions alive and scrapping for loose balls on defense. Anderson and Williams-Goss led a 14-6 run that had the Huskies back in the game.
But that rally just to get within 10 took much of what was left out of Washington.
“It tough, especially when you are down 20-4 or whatever it was,” Wilcox said. “Battling back, your tank’s empty you are still down.”
As Wilcox and others kept missing from outside, Colorado, the second-leading rebounding team in Pac-12 behind once-beaten Arizona, collected long caroms for a 24-13 edge on the boards in the first half. That led to CU's 9-2 edge in fast-break points and a 48-33 lead at halftime.
The 48 points were the most Colorado had scored in the first half during its three seasons in the Pac-12.
The lead got up to 23 early in the second half, and to 89-59 with 3 minutes left. Wilcox uncharacteristically passed up numerous shots outside – and some within a dozen feet of the rim -- with his defender four feet off of him. He didn't have a shot attempt from the field from the 15:31 mark of the second half until he left the game for good with about 4 minutes remaining.
Wilcox had scored a career-high 31 points in the Huskies’ 71-54 win over Colorado on Jan. 12 in Seattle. His 12 makes on 18 shots were a career best, as were his seven 3-pointers in 12 tries that night.
The Buffaloes had been ranked 15th in the country entering that game but then lost leading scorer Spencer Dinwiddie to a season-ending knee injury in the first half at Alaska Airlines Arena. They lost a three-point lead and then the game to the Huskies after Dinwiddie got hurt, and they had lost of four of their previous six games without him before beating Washington State 68-63 here on Thursday.
Then this week, CU lost another starter to injury, forward Wesley Gordon. But Askia Booker – 0 for 9 for zero points in these teams' first meeting – scored 20 this time for Colorado.
After this loss, and with the Huskies heading home for the bulk of this month, Wilcox isn’t alarmed, either.
“It’s big. We play well at home,” Wilcox said. “We need to take advantage of that, regroup and take care of business.”
That business still includes hopes for the Huskies’ first NCAA tournament appearance in three years, coming out of a Pac-12 considered among the three toughest conferences in the country right now.
“On the court we are always saying, ‘Tournament, tournament, tournament,’ to motivate guys," Wilcox said. "We understand how every game is, especially these next seven. If we win most of our games, almost win out, and do well in the Pac-12 tournament, there’s still hope.”