In the midst of the worst stretch of his UW career, Mike Hopkins showed a willingness to shake things up. He sought to space the court with RaeQuan Battle in Jaden McMillan’s spot. The lineup change provided no answers to Colorado’s first half offensive outburst. While Tad Boyle’s Buffs had struggled with the Husky zone over the last two seasons, the veteran squad looked poised and comfortable on their way to an offensive explosion. The cumulative effect of several frustrating losses showed up in a lack of discipline for UW. Between technical fouls, excessively careless turnovers, and blown defensive coverages, the Huskies looked less focused than they have at any point in the Hopkins era. The end result was a 76-62 Colorado win that wasn’t even as close as that lopsided score.
Colorado opened the game by going for the types of mid-range and long twos that Washington’s zone is designed to encourage. The Buff’s early results weren’t great, but the UW offense wasn’t any more efficient. Isaiah Stewart was the exception with a post basket and a three-pointer for the Dawgs’ first five points. The lack of a PG was evident through needless turnovers by UW’s makeshift offensive initiators. Those turnovers kick-started Colorado’s offense to the tune of a 9-0 run, a trio of threes, and a 19-7 lead.
Near the halfway point of the first half, Colorado led 25-11. Fifteen of Colorado’s points came on 5/5 shooting from three, while nine of the Huskies’ 11 came from Stewart. Battle’s quick trigger from outside paid off repeatedly and helped cut the CU lead to nine. On the other end, UW pushed the top of the defense further outside to counter Colorado’s hot shooting and Tyler Bey took advantage with a lethal midrange game. Battle eventually tried a three that was out of even his lane and Colorado responded with yet another triple.
D’Shawn Schwartz made a fast-break lay-up, but the Huskies were able to answer with consecutive threes from Battle and Nahziah Carter to get back within single digits. Shane Gatling, a less-heralded member of Colorado’s back-court, drove by Battle for a bucket to give him ten before the half. The frustration started to show with a technical on Battle. Between Colorado’s hot shooting and smart passing, the Buffalos put up an unfathomable 51 points before the half. Some of the credit goes to Colorado making tough shots, but it was a poor defensive performance by UW full of unnecessary gambles for steals and over-committed defenders who left lots of open space.
The second half started much like the first ended. Colorado continued to pick apart Washington’s zone by waiting for defenders to run themselves out of position. For the Dawgs, Stewart provided a bright spot with his exquisite touch inside of five feet to keep the game from getting completely out of hand. Bryan Penn-Johnson got a rare cameo on the interior and promptly missed a dunk, hanging on the rim to get a technical to compound the miss.
The demotion to the bench did not curb McDaniels’s sloppy play. He repeatedly turned the ball over or forced bad shots with overly aggressive moves off the dribble. Carter, who some felt would emerge as Washington’s perimeter offensive generator, struggled to get looks and missed most of those he did get. In fact, the Huskies other than Stewart and Battle were basically invisible offensively until Colorado had built a commanding lead.
For what it’s worth, the Husky defense regained some of its discipline as the second half proceeded. Nonetheless, McKinley Wright IV wriggled his way into enough space to keep the CU offense moving. Hameir Wright made an open three and a nice entry pass to Stewart to somehow cut the lead to 10 with six minutes to play despite UW’s poor play. The inability to take care of the ball, though, curtailed any chance of a miracle comeback. Despite holding Colorado to roughly half of their first-half output after the half, UWs mountain of turnovers ultimately doomed them.