By Christian Caple The News Tribune
BOULDER, Colo. — Greeted here by thorough domination in all its forms, the Washington Huskies were all but run out of the Coors Events Center by Colorado on Sunday night.
Just as well. After the way the Buffaloes started this game, the Huskies couldn’t get out of Boulder fast enough.
They also couldn’t defend or make shots, both of those problems evident in the game’s early minutes, then present throughout an embarrassing 91-65 loss at Colorado that was never close in the second half.
It was only briefly competitive in the first, after CU opened a 16-point lead before six minutes had passed.
“They were just knocking shots down and knocked us back on our heels right away,” said UW coach Lorenzo Romar. “I thought coming in the game, I thought we were pretty focused and ready to play, but their ability to hit shots early kind of pushed us back a little bit.”
Thus caps a road trip through the mountains that can be classified accurately as miserable, the Huskies (13-11, 5-6 in Pac-12) losing first at Utah before Sunday’s debacle. A loss on Feb. 1 at hapless Washington State began the skid.
Is there an end in sight? Stanford and California visit the Huskies on Wednesday and Saturday, respectively, and both of those teams already beat UW this season.
Of course, Washington is a much better team at home. The Huskies even beat Colorado there, 71-54, on Jan. 12, the game in which star Buffaloes guard Spencer Dinwiddie tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
So Colorado (18-6, 7-4) — a quality team, to be sure — is playing without Dinwiddie for the rest of the season, and on Sunday, the Buffaloes also played without starting forward Wesley Gordon, who sat with a sprained ankle.
It could not possibly have mattered less. Askia Booker (20 points), Josh Scott (21 points) and Xavier Johnson (27 points, 10 rebounds) combined to outscore the Huskies by themselves.
The onslaught started early. Colorado scored 10 points before UW got on the board, and led 20-4 fewer than six minutes into the game. That had the 9,461 in attendance standing and yelling, and that made it even harder for the Huskies to mount a meaningful comeback.
“They just got going,” said senior guard C.J. Wilcox, who scored a season-low eight points and missed all seven of his 3-point attempts. “And at that point, like I always say, it’s tough to stop a team once they get confidence and the crowd gets going.”
UW at least showed signs of making this one interesting, using an 14-6 run to cut the lead to 37-30 after Andrew Andrews made a 3-pointer with 4:11 to play in the first half.
That was the closest the Huskies got. Colorado responded by scoring nine consecutive points, led 48-33 at halftime, and simply continued bludgeoning the Huskies in the second half.
“Once your tank’s empty, you’re still down,” said Wilcox, who scored a career-high 31 points the first time these teams played. “So it’s hard to recuperate and keep playing.”
It certainly looked hard. Booker found his way to the rim and drew fouls. Scott, at 6-foot-10, operated with ease in the low block. Johnson made 10 of his 14 field-goal attempts, including each of his three shots from 3-point range, leading his team’s 9-for-14 effort from beyond the arc.
“We just didn’t come out with the energy and focus we needed to come out with,” said freshman guard Nigel Williams-Goss. “And when you’re playing a good team like Colorado on the road, you can’t afford to do that.”
Colorado shot 55.4 percent from the field, and 60.9 percent in the second half, three days after the Huskies allowed Utah to put up a 68-percent second-half clip.
It didn’t help that with Wilcox suffering through a rare off-night, his teammates couldn’t find ways to get the ball in the basket, either. UW shot 32.3 percent from the field. Williams-Goss led UW with 15 points (on 5-of-13 shooting), and Perris Blackwell added 10 points.
Wilcox and fellow starting guard Andrews combined to shoot 5-for-23 from the field. Andrews shot 4-for-25 during the two-game road trip.
“Sometimes your offense can be just as much a contributor to bad defense, because you’re shooting too quickly, you’re settling, and that other team just stays in a rhythm,” Romar said.
Wilcox said the Huskies still harbor postseason hopes, however far away that might feel now. They finish the regular season with five of seven games at home, where they have not lost a Pac-12 game.
“If there was ever a time to now make a run,” Romar said, “we’ve got to do it.”