Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer
CU men’s basketball preview: Washington Huskies
TIPOFF: Saturday, 8 p.m., CU Events Center.
BROADCAST: TV — ESPNU; Radio — 850 AM.
RECORDS: Washington 11-4, 2-0 Pac-12 Conference; Colorado 10-5, 1-2.
COACHES: Washington — Mike Hopkins, 2nd season (32-17 at UW and overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, 9th season (176-115, 232-181 overall).
KEY PLAYERS: Washington — G Jaylen Nowell, So., 16.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.4 apg; F Noah Dickerson, Sr., 14.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg; G David Crisp, Sr., 10.9 ppg, .362 3-point percentage. Colorado — G McKinley Wright, So., 13.6 ppg, 5.5 apg, 5.1 rpg; F Tyler Bey, So., 11.8 ppg, 9.1 rpg; F Lucas Siewert, Jr., 11.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg.
NOTES: UW also features senior guard Matisse Thybulle, the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of Year. Thybulle is averaging 9.3 points per game and is 24-for-26 at the free throw line…CU has won 11 of its past 12 home games dating back to a 72-62 loss against UW at the CU Events Center last year. Thybulle (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Dickerson (10 points, 14 rebounds) both posted double-doubles for the Huskies. Bey posted the first double-double of his career in that game with 14 points and 11 rebounds…Washington is coming off a 69-53 win Thursday night at Utah. Crisp knocked down five 3-pointers and finished with 17 points…Siewert has fallen into a mini-slump, going 6-for-22 (.273) from the floor in the past three games…Last year’s season sweep by UW was the first two-game sweep by either team since the Buffs joined the Pac-12…Bey is a cousin of UW freshman Jamal Bey, who has played sparingly for the Huskies off the bench…CU goes back on the road for three consecutive games, beginning Jan. 20 at Utah.
D’Shawn Schwartz can do it all.
While owning the skills of a small forward and the shooting touch of a 3-point ace, the 6-foot-7 Schwartz has the ability to affect games for the Colorado men’s basketball team in a number of different ways.
However, as Schwartz has attempted to assume a bigger role for the Buffaloes this season, the sophomore from Colorado Springs often has struggled to put all those pieces together during each and every game. That changed on Thursday night, as Schwartz’s all-around play was a key factor in CU finally picking up its first Pac-12 Conference win with a 92-60 rout of Washington State.
It was a step in the right direction for Schwartz, whose contributions will be even more critical Saturday night as the Buffs host Washington, one of the favorites in a down year for the Pac-12.
“What did I hit, one three (against WSU)? It hasn’t been feeling the best,” Schwartz said. “So I’ve been trying to use other areas of my game to impact the game. For assists, I’m trying to find Shane (Gatling) on the wing or (Tyler) Bey down low. Those guys can make great plays. There’s great players around us, so I’ve got to utilize them as I can.”
Indeed, Schwartz’s 3-point shot remains somewhat off-target, but that didn’t prevent him from having a career night Thursday against the Cougars.
Schwartz raised the bar with career-highs for points (16) and assists (four) while also adding seven rebounds, only one shy of the career-best he posted last week at Arizona. Rebounding has always been the biggest challenge issued toward Schwartz by head coach Tad Boyle, and he has shown signs of evolving in that department.
Despite a then-career-high seven rebounds in his season debut against Omaha, Schwartz still was averaging just three rebounds per game through his first five contests. In the nine games since, though, Schwartz is averaging 4.8 rebounds per game.
“We’ll take that from D’Shawn every night,” Boyle said. “We’ve asked him to be aggressive. He was aggressive (against WSU). Didn’t play perfect, but he played aggressively. Offensively he was rebounding the ball. He’s a good passer. He still can finish better than he finished. He still misses some shots that are very makeable. But I want D’Shawn to be aggressive.”
If Schwartz can get his missing 3-point shot on track with the rest of this game, the Buffs will be in good shape.
After connecting at a .383 clip from 3-point range as a freshman, Schwartz’s 1-for-5 mark on Thursday dropped his season 3-point percentage to .263 (10-for-38). However, the return home warmed up what previously had been a cold 3-point touch for CU.
In the previous six games before Thursday’s win, all away from the CU Events Center, the Buffs shot just .262 (32-for-122) on 3-pointers. Against WSU, the Buffs went 11-for-27, with Gatling turning in the best effort of his short CU career with a 5-for-10 mark. Repeating that effort would provide a huge boost Saturday against Washington’s stingy zone defense.
“They’re length and their effort…(zone) is all they do,” Boyle said. “When it’s all you do, you’re usually pretty good at it. And our thing is, whether it’s zone offense or man offense, our goal is no different. We want paint touches. We want to play inside-out. We want to get a great shot for our team every time we have it. It’s just against a zone, you have to go about that in a different way. Your play package is shrunk significantly.
“Washington knows every zone play there is because play against it all the time. It’s a matter of your players making plays against that zone, and that’s what we’re going to have to do Saturday night.”