It felt like Washington was on the verge of something great when they couldn’t quite finish against UCLA on Saturday. Well they kept up the good vibes and it paid off tonight as the Huskies managed a shocking upset of Colorado by a score of 84-80 behind Marcus Tsohonis’ career high 27 points. The Buffaloes had entered the game as the best team in the conference per the advanced metrics but fall to 11-4 (5-3) with the loss while UW improves to 2-11 (1-7).
In the first meeting between these 2 teams the Huskies fell behind by 20 points almost instantly and it looked like that might be how this one was heading as well. The Buffs managed to knock down a few midrange jumpers and Washington started ice cold from outside as it was 6-0 Colorado at the first media timeout.
The Huskies’ shooting picked up though as Hameir Wright knocked down a 3-pointer and Quade Green and Jamal Bey also hit outside shots to help give the Dawgs a 13-11 lead. Colorado came right back though with a 10-0 run in response. That stretch included a technical foul on Coach Hopkins who (rightly) thought Quade Green had gotten fouled driving to the hoop when the refs never blew the whistle.
Evan Battey and Jeriah Horne repeatedly crushed the Husky defense on the interior and scored 6 points backing down Erik Stevenson from the corner to close enough to hit an easy hook shot when no UW defender came to put on a double team. The pair combined for 24 points in the first half.
Colorado used that offense to keep an 8-10 point lead for much of the half but the Huskies made a late run. Marcus Tsohonis and Erik Stevenson combined for 12 points in the final 4 minutes of the half to bring the Huskies within 2 with 30 seconds remaining at 38-36. The entire bench stood up, clapping, giving a loud “Defense!” cheer in the absence of the Dawg pack but Colorado made a late midrange jumper to make it 40-36 at halftime. Tsohonis led the way with 9 points for UW while Colorado astoundingly had 0 turnovers and 0 made 3-pointers.
The Buffaloes came out of the half and hit their first 3-pointer of the game but it wasn’t a sign of things to come as they remained cold from outside excepting that shot. Both teams were efficient though on offense as Washington never let Colorado separate. Each team scored points on 4 consecutive possessions before a Husky miss that kept it close at 55-50 Colorado.
Washington’s hot outside shooting continued and Marcus Tsohonis and Jamal Bey hit back-to-back 3’s to give the Huskies their first lead since early in the 1st half at 58-57. That led to a rare stretch in this game where neither team scored for a full 90 seconds. Cole Bajema twice had the ball on a 2v1 fast break opportunity and twice turned the ball over. The second time however he got back down court, blocked a shot, then secured a tough rebound in traffic after a Colorado putback attempt.
The Buffs reasserted themselves to take a 63-60 lead when Marcus Tsohonis canned a 3-pointer while getting fouled and finished off the 4-point play to give UW back the lead. Erik Stevenson took back over the keys from Tsohonis for a bit and made a pair of free throws followed by a 3-pointer of his own the latter of which tied the game at 69-69 with 6:45 remaining. Stevenson however fouled McKinley Wright IV on a drive a few minutes later and fouled out of the game with 17 points.
Despite having a shooting option hit the bench the Huskies still had some offensive firepower. Quade Green and Jamal Bey each scored for the Dawgs to keep UW’s narrow lead afloat and then Marcus Tsohonis hit back to back contested shots the latter of which put the Huskies up 81-75 with 1 minute remaining and seemingly clinched it.
However, this is Washington we’re talking about. They of the accursed late game outcomes. Quade Green who had been shooting 90% from the line this season missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Colorado came right down the court to score an and-1 which brought the Husky lead down to just 3. After Tsohonis knocked down a pair of free throws and Colorado got a layup, Quade Green had the ball tied up on the inbounds and the refs called a held ball instead of a foul and possession went to Colorado. Nate Roberts played superb defense though closing out on McKinley Wright IV without fouling which forced him to pass the ball and resulted in a deep 3 for Colorado that missed badly. Hameir Wright secured the rebound and made 1 of 2 at the line to guarantee the win.
It was a career night for Marcus Tsohonis who not only had a personal best 27 points but did it on an extremely efficient 9/13 shooting performance. Erik Stevenson took some bad shots but enough of them went in for him to finish with 17 points. Jamal Bey’s confidence on offense continued as he had 14 points on 8 shots and has now for 3 full weeks looked like the player we all thought he could be. Quade Green rounded out the double digit scorers with 11 points and 5 assists.
Depending on how you look at it you could consider Washington very lucky to win this game. They shot 12/25 from 3-pt range while Colorado shot 1/18 from deep. If either side shoots anything close to their season average then the Huskies aren’t competitive. However, Colorado had just 1 turnover with 6 minutes left in the game and still finished with a 10-5 advantage. Despite Colorado scoring at will inside the Huskies were only outrebounded 34-30 which for them is a massive improvement.
It’s not crazy to say that Washington just played back-to-back games against the 2 toughest teams in the conference and managed to split them while both came down to the wire. Coach Hopkins again went with an 8-man rotation and it seems like he has finally found the grouping that he’ll ride with for the rest of the season. It’s tough to trust that the last 2 games are more instructive than the previous 11 but considering the tightened rotation and renewed fire, it might be.
If the Huskies play like they have the last 2 games for the rest of the season then they aren’t going to suddenly turn into conference champions but even anything close to a 0.500 finish for the rest of the season would be a massive step up from where this season was (and could still be) headed.
Washington returns to the court on Sunday when they take on Utah at home at 1p on Pac-12 Networks.