CU men’s basketball preview: Washington
MATCHUP: Colorado Buffaloes (15-11, 7-7 Pac-12 Conference) at Washington Huskies (17-9, 7-6)
GAME TIME: Saturday, 6 p.m. MT, at Alaska Airlines Arena, Seattle
BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Network; Radio — 850 AM.
COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, 8th season (164-106; 220-172 overall). Washington — Mike Hopkins, 1st season (17-9 at UW and overall).
LEADERS: Colorado — Scoring: G McKinley Wright, Fr., 14.5 ppg; Rebounding: G George King, Sr., 8.3 rpg; Assists: Wright, 5.4 apg. Washington — Scoring: G Jaylen Nowell, Fr., 16.2 ppg; Rebounding: F Noah Dickerson, Jr., 8.3 rpg; Assists: G David Crisp, Jr., 3.2 apg.
NOTES: Colorado is looking to bounce back from a 73-69 loss at Washington State on Thursday. The Buffs are seeking their fourth win the last five games…Washington brings a three-game losing streak into this game, including a 70-58 loss to Utah on Thursday…Washington won the previous meeting with CU, 72-62, in Boulder on Jan. 20…Washington leads the all-time series, 13-11, and is 9-2 against the Buffs in Seattle…Wright enters this game with 141 assists, needing just three more to break CU’s freshman record of 143, set by Chauncey Billups in 1995-96…King needs 21 points to pass Scott Wedman (1971-74) and Blair Wilson (2000-04) for 20th on CU’s career scoring list.
SEATTLE — Colorado already lost one opportunity on this week’s road trip. The Buffaloes are determined to not lose another one.
Following Thursday’s 73-69 loss to last-place Washington State in Pullman, Wash., the Buffaloes are taking a “must-win” approach to Saturday’s duel with the Washington Huskies.
“We have to split on the road,” forward Dallas Walton said. “It puts more pressure on us this Saturday.”
At 15-11 (7-7 Pac-12 Conference), the Buffs are a long-shot to reach the NCAA Tournament, but they’re in danger of playing their way out of NIT consideration, as well.
CU took a three-game winning streak into Pullman, but coughing up a late lead against the Cougars is a damaging result.
“This game is a bad look on our resume losing to the worst team in our conference,” guard McKinley Wright said.
It was one of CU’s worst performances during the Pac-12 season, and now the Buffs have to figure out a way to bounce back against the much more talented Huskies (17-9, 7-6).
“We have to get ready,” Walton said. “We have to have a good practice (Friday) and get after it on Saturday.”
Namon Wright called the Washington game a “win or go home type of deal” and McKinley Wright said, “It’s a must-win game.”
Head coach Tad Boyle wouldn’t go that far, but knows that if the Pullman version of the Buffs shows up in Seattle, it’ll be another disappointing result.
“We have to get better,” he said. “If we don’t play better than we played (against Washington State), we won’t win another game all year.”
CU knows all too well how good Washington can be, as the Huskies came into Boulder on Jan. 20 and handed the Buffs a 72-62 loss.
In that game, Washington dominated the boards, 50-34, converting 16 offensive rebounds into 20 second-chance points.
The Buffs also struggled with Washington’s zone defense, hitting just 35.4 percent of their shots.
The key to getting around the zone, Boyle said, is for the Buffs to play good defense — something they didn’t do against Washington State.
“No. 1, we have to guard,” he said. “We have to stop Washington. If we stop them, we can score in transition and the zone doesn’t get set up. If you don’t stop them, they set the zone up and now you have to work against that thing. We’re going to play against 40 minutes of zone.
“We’re going to have to be more efficient offensively than we were when we played them the first time.”
Beating the zone, defending, and crashing the boards will be essential, but perhaps CU’s biggest challenge will be in regrouping mentally.
“We better grow up quickly,” Boyle said.