CU men's basketball preview: Washington Huskies

GAME TIME: Saturday, 8:30 p.m. MT, Alaska Airlines Arena, Seattle, Wash.

BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Network; Radio — 850 AM.

RECORDS: Colorado 16-10, 7-7 Pac-12 Conference; Washington 21-5, 12-1.

COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, 9th season (182-120, 238-186 overall); Washington — Mike Hopkins, 2nd season (42-18 at UW and overall).

KEY PLAYERS: Colorado — G McKinley Wright, So., 13.5 ppg, 5.0 apg, 4.9 rpg; F Tyler Bey, So., 12.3 ppg, 9.4 rpg; F Lucas Siewert, 10.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg. Washington — G Jaylen Nowell, So., 16.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.2 apg; F Noah Dickerson, Sr., 13.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg; G David Crisp, Sr., 12.2 ppg, 2.7 apg.

NOTES: The Buffs have lost their past three visits to UW, and the Huskies are 13-0 at home this season...In Pac-12 games, UW's defense leads the league in points allowed (61.4), turnovers forced (17.8), and defensive 3-point percentage (.306). The Huskies also rank second, just fractions behind USC, in overall defensive field goal percentage (.421)...Earlier this week, UW's Matisse Thybulle was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award. Thybulle leads the Pac-12 with 3.5 steals per game and ranks second with 2.2 blocked shots per game...Following the game at UW, the Buffs close the regular season with three consecutive home games beginning March 2 against Utah.


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SEATTLE, Wash. — — His team can launch just four 3-pointers or 40 as far as head coach Tad Boyle is concerned. If those shots are getting generated from the inside-out, that's all that matters.

The Colorado men's basketball team's five-game winning streak come to an end Wednesday night at Washington State in a game that saw the Buffaloes match a season-high with 29 3-point attempts. It was, in part, a reaction to the zone defense the Cougars threw at the Buffs for most of the contest. But CU also settled for 3-pointers far too frequently without working the ball inside.

The Buffs made only nine of those 3-point attempts at WSU, and Boyle has stressed that his team will have to execute with far greater efficiency if they hope to pull off an upset at Pac-12 Conference-leading Washington Saturday night.

"We've got to understand that we have to get paint touches," Boyle said. "It's no different against a zone than it is against man. It's more tempting to take threes against a zone because that's the shot they want you to take. And they want certain guys to take them. We can't fall into the trap of settling for the shots they want us to take. We've got to attack the paint. We want to get to the free throw line. We want to play inside-out.

"Our philosophy offensively is no different against zone than it is against man. It's just sometimes when you play against zone you fall into that trap of settling very easily. We've got to make sure we don't do that Saturday night."

While it seemed as if the Buffs were throwing up threes haphazardly at times against WSU, with the long-range attempts accounting for 43.9 percent of CU's total field goal attempts, a deeper breakdown shows little correlation between the number of the Buffs' 3-point attempts and the outcome of games. In 14 Pac-12 games, CU has had 3-point attempts account for at least 40 percent of their overall field goal attempts five times. The Buffs went 3-2 in those games.

"I really think we settled for threes (at WSU) because they were playing zone. It's easy to shoot threes against a zone," CU guard Shane Gatling said. "Washington is going to play zone and it's better than Washington State's zone. We've really got to take good shots against the zone. We've got to drive on guys in the zone. We have to take what the defense gives us. Washington's wings are out at the 3-point line. It's harder to make passes and they go after steals. We have to make the right plays."

The Buffs suffered a seven-point loss at home against Washington on Jan. 12 in a game that saw CU fall behind 12-0 before losing leading scorer McKinley Wright for the final 28 minutes due to a shoulder injury. CU will face a stingy zone defense for 40 minutes that held Utah to 18 second-half points in a win Wednesday night, and an expected sellout crowd at Alaska Airlines Arena will be amped for the potential of the Huskies to clinch at least a share of the Pac-12's regular-season crown with a victory.

"One thing I want is that we want to get the ball in that paint before we take threes," Boyle said. "I don't have the exact numbers, but when we get a paint touch our 3-point percentage (increases)."

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07