Solving Washington defense the challenge for CU Buffs in Pac-12 semifinals

Colorado sophomore D'Shawn Schwartz enjoyed two solid outings against Washington during the regular season and will seek a third when the teams collide in the Pac-12 Conference semifinals.
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer DAILY CAMERA
Colorado sophomore D’Shawn Schwartz enjoyed two solid outings against Washington during the regular season and will seek a third when the teams collide in the Pac-12 Conference semifinals.


CU men’s basketball preview: Washington Huskies

TIPOFF: Friday, 7 p.m. MT, T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas.

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

RECORDS: Colorado 21-11; Washington 25-7.

COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, 9th season (187-121, 243-187); Washington — Mike Hopkins, 2nd season (46-20 at UW and overall).

KEY PLAYERS: Colorado — G McKinley Wright, So., 13.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 4.8 apg; F Tyler Bey, So., 13.0 ppg, 9.6 rpg; F Lucas Siewert, Jr., 9.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg. Washington — G Jaylen Nowell, So., 16.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg; F Noah Dickerson, Sr., 12.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg; G Matisse Thybulle, Sr., 9.3 ppg, 3.6 spg, 2.3 bpg.

NOTES: Washington has won its past four games against the Buffs, but this semifinal matchup will be the teams’ first meeting in the Pac-12 tournament…Bey and D’Shawn Schwartz were the Buffs’ top performers against UW this season. Schwartz scored a career-high 22 points in CU’s home loss against UW and went 9-for-15 (.600) in the two games. Bey averaged 17.5 points and 10 rebounds against the Huskies…The Buffs finished the regular season with a .312 mark on 3-pointers, the lowest of Boyle’s nine-year tenure and the lowest by any CU team since a .308 mark in 2006-07. However, the Buffs have gone 16-for-36 (.444) on 3-pointers during the two tournament wins in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS — In order to play for a chance to advance to the NCAA Tournament, the Colorado Buffaloes first will have to topple the best the Pac-12 Conference has to offer.

That will be the challenge facing coach Tad Boyle’s club Friday night, as the fifth-seeded Buffs square off against the top-seeded Washington Huskies in the first semifinal of the Pac-12 tournament.

Washington swept CU during the regular season and held off USC for a 78-75 win in its first tournament game Thursday afternoon.

“Washington obviously is the champion of the league over an 18-game schedule. They’re very, very good,” Boyle said. “They’ve got a lot of good players, but the teams that have had success against Washington are the teams that have guarded them well. We’re going to have to do that again (Friday).

“Obviously we’re going to have to handle their zone and take care of the ball. We had 19 turnovers last time we played them in Seattle. Hopefully we can have that kind of turn around like we had (against Oregon State) in terms of taking care of the ball and ratcheting up our defense. If we do that, we’ll give ourselves a chance.”

CU struggled against a Washington zone defense that set the pace in Pac-12 play in defensive scoring average (62.3). The Huskies also finished second in overall defensive field goal percentage (.431) and defensive 3-point percentage (.318) during the regular season, though USC shot 45 percent with an 11-for-27 (.407) mark on 3-pointers during the Huskies’ win on Thursday.

The Buffs never got on track in either meeting against UW this season, falling behind 12-0 in a 77-70 home loss on Jan. 12 and falling behind by 15 points early in the second half of a 64-55 loss at Washington three weeks ago. That scoring total was the lowest of the season for CU. The Buffs shot .429 overall in the two losses against UW but fared better from 3-point range than the average against the Huskies’ defense, going 10-for-28 (.357).

“They like to jump in, block everything and go for steals,” CU junior guard Shane Gatling said. “We’ve just got to be patient in the zone and just play Colorado basketball.”

Pat Rooney: or