Both Colorado and Washington were coming off losses where they missed a free throw in the closing seconds that would’ve put them up 3 and instead lost by a single point. Neither team wanted a repeat of that scenario. A late turnover gave Colorado a chance to get close but UW broke Colorado’s press for a pair of late dunks to secure a 73-63 win over the Buffaloes. Braxton Meah returned from a sprained ankle to lead the way with 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks. The Huskies improve to 7-2 (1-1) on the season.
Washington got off to a tough start offensively (shocker) as PJ Fuller missed a 3-pointer and the Dawgs turned it over on 3 of their next 4 possessions. When they did get a shot up though it started to go in. Jamal Bey hit a tough runner in the lane and Keion Brooks Jr. got downhill for a layup. The Huskies were able to get out in transition and it led to a PJ Fuller made wing 3 and a Cole Bajema layup following a Braxton Meah steal.
With the ACL injury to Franck Kepnang the Huskies decided to go away from the idea of redshirting Jackson Grant and he entered the game with 14:52 left in the first half for the first time this year. That was necessary as Keion Brooks Jr. quickly picked up his 2nd foul and was sent to the bench.
The Huskies got up to 13-8 lead but that quickly evaporated as Colorado went on a 7-0 run in just 1:15 to retake the lead heading into the under-12 timeout. Turnovers were an issue for both teams as they each turned it over on consecutive possessions and UW’s scoreless drought streaked extended past 4 minutes. Braxton Meah broke it by splitting a pair of free throws after getting fouled on a post-up attempt. After a Colorado 3 he eventually also ended UW’s field goal drought at 6 minutes by hitting a jump hook to bring the Dawgs within 2 at 18-16.
Washington was able to retake the lead 23-22 after Keion Brooks hit a lefty hook shot and in transition after a stop Cole Bajema pulled up for a long 3-point make. Colorado went back in front but Braxton Meah for the 3rd time this year had a lane violation called on an opponent during a miss and he made it with an extra try. UW went for a surprise full court press and Jamal Bey came away with a steal after trapping the Buff ball handler in the corner. It was a bad offensive possession but Bey bailed them out with a deep 3 to barely beat the shot clock and extend the lead to 28-24 Huskies.
Colorado missed the front end of a 1-and-1 for the second time and even though the Buffs got 2 offensive rebounds after the miss, Meah was able to block a shot and hold them scoreless. Braxton then got great position and was able to catch the ball right under the hoop and make a layup while getting hacked for an and-1 (although he missed the free throw and then goaltended on the other end).
Koren Johnson hit a 3 but then made a tough freshman mistake. After a Colorado turnover Johnson led the fast break and went for a layup which was blocked. Johnson’s momentum carried him out of bounds and he caught the ball which was followed him which mean a turnover instead of Husky ball if he had just let it go. Washington had the last shot up 33-26 but Braxton Meah forced a floater to beat the buzzer and it came up short. Despite the potentially banged up ankle it was Meah leading UW in both points and rebounds at the break with 7 and 6 respectively.
Technically Bajema was tied with Meah in points at the break. He quickly took over the lead in that regard hitting a 3-pointer and getting fouled to complete the rare 4-point play and extend Washington’s lead to double digits 30 seconds into the half. Bajema missed a circus shot layup attempt on the next possession but Meah had his back getting the board and putting it back in for a layup. Meah finally made a mistake on defense though as Colorado got him in the air and converted an and-1 layup to get back within 10.
Keion Brooks Jr. got back involved backing his man down and hitting a nice little 8-foot turnaround jumper. The next time down the court he drove to the basket but pulled up and dished it to Braxton Meah who was open after Colorado’s center left him to defend the drive. Meah slammed it for a thunderous dunk that put UW up 43-29 and forced an early Colorado timeout.
Colorado’s leading scorer KJ Simpson was quiet in the first half but reasserted himself draining a long 3-point shot. After a Fuller turnover the Buffs once again got Meah in the air in transition and got to the line for a pair of free throws. Koren Johnson stabilized things a bit with Meah on the bench following his 3rd foul. He pulled up for a nice long 2-point swish and drew a charge on the defensive end.
Jamal Bey kept the momentum going by bullying into the lane and pulling up for a 10-foot jumper. The next time down the court (after Colorado couldn’t inbound it within 5 seconds) UW was stagnant and Bey for the second time swished a late shot clock desperation 3-pointer. He kept it going on the defensive end poking the ball away for a UW steal to earn back possession while up 50-34 with 12:50 left.
Colorado finally made an impact play finding 7’1 Lawson Lovering driving to the basket and he dunked it on Jackson Grant’s head for an and-1. However he then went straight to Grant’s face, who was walking away, to let him hear about it and got a technical for his troubles. Bajema made both of his free throws while Lovering missed his. However for the 3rd time of the game Colorado rebounded a missed free throw and were able to make a floater to put it at 52-40 UW.
Turnovers once again bit each team. PJ Fuller got a steal but then carried the ball while getting downcourt unmarked to give it right back. Colorado answered with a shot clock violation and their 16th turnover of the game before Brooks and da Silva traded easy baskets. Unfortunately for UW, Meah got called for his 4th foul trying for an offensive rebound when he had no shot at getting it.
Colorado went full-court press and it took UW the full 10 seconds to get it across half court. The Huskies never got into an offensive set and it resulted in a shot clock violation. The Buffaloes answered with their 3rd straight basket within 6-feet of the rim and the quick 6-0 run prompted a Hopkins timeout with just over 8 minutes remaining. Coming out of the timeout the Huskies just never ran an offense and PJ Fuller bricked a long desperation 3-point attempt. Then a careless turnover by UW turned into a coast to coast and-1 layup and suddenly Colorado was within just 5 points at 54-49.
PJ Fuller had been completely out of sorts on offense but got it done on defense. He picked up a steal and Koren Johnson missed a transition layup with a lot of uncalled contact. Colorado got a chance at a fast break score but PJ Fuller chased down KJ Simpson from behind and earned the block off the glass leading to a Meah alley-oop. That momentum didn’t carry over as Colorado continually got it down low against Meah with 4 fouls and when it closed down to 56-54 on Tristan da Silva’s 3rd short jumper, Hop called timeout.
Koren Johnson came out of the break and immediately threw it away on a bad entry pass to Meah that never had a chance. He got his redemption on the next possession as Colorado reverted back to man from zone which allowed him to drive and break down the defense before kicking it out. The movement allowed PJ Fuller to slice to an open hole at the rim and make the and-1 layup and give UW a 59-52 cushion with just over 3.5 minutes left.
Washington’s defense came up big securing a pair of held balls to get the possession tracker pointing in their favor and force a turnover. Fuller though immediately threw it away on another terrible entry pass attempt and Colorado answered with a transition dunk. Once again we saw immediately redemption as he drove and kicked to an open Bajema who canned a 3 with the assist. And once again Colorado answered with a 3 of their own and at 62-59 with 1:36 left, Tad Boyle called a timeout.
Koren Johnson came out of the timeout and split Colorado’s double team attempt to find an open Brooks Jr. on the baseline who easily sliced in for a bucket. With 1:17 left Hop curiously took Washington’s final timeout up by 5. Colorado got da Silva in his spot at the center of the zone but he finally missed a short turnaround jumper. The Buffs put on the press and almost forced a turnover but it went directly to Koren Johnson who found Braxton Meah under the basket for an and-1 dunk which extended UW’s lead to 8 and just about put it away.
A terrible decision by UW against Colorado’s press gave Colorado a brief shot as they closed it to within 4 but PJ Fuller had a tomahawk dunk and UW made their late free throws to secure the 73-63 victory.
The return of Braxton Meah was critical as he tied Cole Bajema for the team lead in points with 16. Keion Brooks Jr. had one of his most efficient games with 14 points on 6/11 shooting, 7 rebounds, 4 assists although with 5 turnovers. Jamal Bey chipped in with 12 points and 5 steals. PJ Fuller had just 8 points and 5 turnovers of his own but did add in 4 assists while Koren Johnson had 7 points, 4 assists, and 3 turnovers. Jackson Grant went scoreless in his debut but had 2 rebounds and a block playing solid defense.
Turnovers were the problem for both teams with 18 apiece but Washington had more live ball opportunities and their capitalizing in transition saved the game. Colorado shot just under 30% on 3-point attempts and a horrid 46% at the free throw line to help UW survive.
This game greatly changes the outlook for the Huskies moving forward. Kepnang’s ACL injury is obviously a blow but Meah has been the bigger impact player so far and having him healthy is a huge boost over just relying on Langston Wilson and Jackson Grant plus Keion Brooks in small ball situations.
Washington will be a huge underdog in their next game as they travel to he Kennel to play Gonzaga in Spokane on Friday night. The Zags are a surprising 5-3 so far this year but all 3 of the losses have come to teams in the top-6 at KenPom and they still have the most efficient offense in the country behind All-American Drew Timme.