The Washington Huskies (11-8) came into Boulder, Colorado to begin the always challenging Mountain Road two-game road trip, kicking off against the Colorado Buffaloes (11-8). Both teams went into the game with the exact same overall and conference record (3-5) but separated by over 50 spots in KenPom. A rematch from from earlier in the season that saw the Huskies defeat Colorado 73-63 in Seattle, the Buffaloes were out for revenge on their home court this time.
Colorado came into the game 8-1 at home and has only given up 47 points per game in Conference Home games, but the Huskies were up to the challenge early on. The Buffaloes are also one of the top teams in the conference in forcing turnovers so ball security would be a big key to the game as well.
The Huskies would get on the board first with a Keyon Menifield jumper on the first possession and Colorado would answer on their first possession as well, so it was looking like there could be some potential to a high scoring game early on. However, a drought by both teams with multiple turnovers would keep it a low scoring affair in the first 7 minutes.
Keion Brooks, who has had 3 straight double-doubles for the Huskies, would score on his first attempt as well with a strong drive to the hoop. Brooks also had a three-pointer taken away after he barely stepped on the end line but would quickly make up for that with a three-pointer from the top of the key to give him 5 quick points.
Braxton Meah, who was held without a dunk versus California, got back to business with two early dunks against Colorado. One off of a nice pick and roll feed from Freshman Koren Johnson and the other off of a hustle rebound to stuff it back in.
The Huskies 2-3 zone was giving Colorado some issues early on and held Colorado to only 4 points in the first 6 minutes but reserve Julian Hammond scored 5 quick points to bring the lead back to 11-9. Colorado got some good looks against the zone but was forced to shoot a lot of awkward 8-foot shots that were rimming out. However, Colorado would pound the offensive glass which is another strength of Colorado (1st in the Pac 12 in offensive boards).
Koren Johnson, who is coming off a Pac 12 Freshman of the week honor hit a transition 3 to help the Huskies extend the lead to 14-9. Johnson also chipped in 3 early assists but did have a couple of freshman turnovers in the 1st half by throwing two passes out of bounds with no Washington players in sight. The highs and lows of a freshman would rear its head the entire game.
The other Freshman guard, Keyon Menifield would hit a couple of threes of his own. One was off of an inbounds play to give UW a 25-15 lead with under 7 minutes left in the 1st half and the other was off of a nice two-man play between Keion and Keyon at the top of the key. Cole Bajema would also hit a 3-pointer and was fouled but failed to convert the 4-point play.
Tristan Da Silva, who averages 14.7 ppg and a threat to the 2-3 zone, had a tough start shooting 0-6 before hitting his first FG with 6:30 left in the 1st half. Silva would quickly score 5 more points to pull the Huskies lead to 29 to 22.
Keion Brooks would answer right back with a steal and dunk to extend back to a 9 point lead with under 4 minutes to go. This would be the last FG the Huskies would score for the remaining 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
The Huskies, already without Jamal Bey for the game (sickness) and Noah Williams also not 100% (sickness), would see PJ Fuller play 12 minutes in the 1st half and score 6 of the final 8 points to help sustain the first half lead.
Keyon Menifield would lead the Huskies with 8 points and Keion Brooks would have 7 points himself, to help lead the Huskies at halftime with a narrow 7-point lead at 33-26.
The Huskies Do All They Can To Survive In The 2nd Half
With the poor finish to the first half and the concerns of the mountain elevation potentially impacting the Huskies energy in the 2nd half, it would be important to get off to a quick start and that is exactly what Washington did. In a series of good fortune, Tristan Da Silva missed a point blank layup and Lawson Lovering was able to clean up the miss but threw it directly to Keyon Menifield who raced the other way for an easy layup. A quick 4-0 turnaround to start the 2nd half.
Colorado also came out with a zone defense of their own to try and mix things up but the Huskies were able to score by finding Keion Brooks in the high post for an easy bucket with 3 seconds left on the shot clock. Keion Brooks would add another high post basket against the Colorado zone to quickly force the Buffaloes back to man-to-man.
Things got a little heated on the UW sideline as Keion Brooks was called for stepping out of bounds before making another layup, however, Mike Hopkins was visibly upset about a non-foul call and didn’t appear that Brooks actually stepped out of bounds. Took away 2 points and Tristan Da Silva scored again to pull the Buffaloes back to within six at 39 to 33.
The Huskies would stop the run and extend the lead back to 10 after a tough runner by Koren Johnson and Braxton Meah cleaned up a Johnson miss with a physical rebound and dunk for the 7’1 Center. Keion Brooks would hit his 2nd three of the game after another screen and roll with Koren Johnson to give the Huskies their biggest lead of 13. Colorado would call a Timeout with 13:15 left to a stunned Colorado crowd.
The Buffaloes would not go away and amped up their defensive pressure by going with a full court press the final 13 minutes of the game. The Huskies would answer by putting in 3 point guards in the lineup but still had a lot of difficulty even bringing the ball up court without a turnover. Colorado would also throw a lot of double teams at Freshman Koren Johnson and Keyon Menifield, which sped the freshman up for costly turnovers. However, anytime the Huskies would successfully break the press, there was a high success rate of scoring with timely baskets by Keion Brooks, Cole Bajema and Noah Williams.
Noah Williams, who was questionable today with a sickness, hit a few big shots in the 2nd half to help the Huskies hold on to a brittle lead. Williams hit an open three-pointer with 10 minutes left and later hit a tough layup late in the game. Williams would also find Braxton Meah for a lob pass off of a nice penetration to the lane to give the Huskies a 58 to 47 lead with 8 minutes to go.
Colorado would go on another run and would pull within 60-53. Keion Brooks stepped up again with a big three-pointer in the corner to give the Huskies a 9 point cushion with 4:30 left in the game. The 2nd time of the game where Brooks came off a pick and roll with Koren Johnson at the top of the key and floated out to the wing for his 3rd three-pointer of the game.
Then it was hold on time for the Dawgs as Colorado amplified their defensive pressure and forced multiple steals for easy pick-6 baskets to stay close. Noah Williams finished a tough layup in traffic and Koren Johnson was able to break free in the press to force a foul and hit 2 big free throws to extend a 67 to 60 lead.
The Buffaloes would not go away and the game turned into a free throw battle the rest of the way. Keion Brooks hit two free throws with 3 minutes left but Koren Johnson fouled out on the very next Colorado possession, sending Julian Hammond to the free throw line. Hammond would hit 4 free throws down the final three minute stretch and hit a big 3-pointer to pull the Buffaloes within three for the first time since early in the 1st half.
With a chance to tie the game, the Buffaloes missed a long jumper and Braxton Meah was fouled on the rebound attempt, sending the one-handed free throw shooter to shoot a 1-and-1 with the game on the line. Meah calmly hits the first free throw and then sinks the 2nd to extend the lead back to five with 1:30 left.
After Hammond hit his 2nd pair of free throws with 50 seconds left to bring the Buffaloes within 3 again, Keion Brooks threw the ball away for another Huskies turnover, trying to break the Colorado pressure and Colorado would have a chance to get within 2 or tie the game. Out of the timeout, the Huskies switched to a man to man defense which found Braxton Meah guarding the 6’1 foot guard KJ Simpson. Simpson easily blows by Meah and cut the Huskies lead to only 1 with 33.8 seconds left.
The Huskies called their own timeout but the possession turned into…. you guessed it…. another Washington turnover, the 22nd of the night.
Colorado would have a chance to take the lead with 24 seconds left but it was Colorado this time that turned the ball over with 6 seconds left as KJ Simpson threw the ball out of bounds into the Colorado bench. The Huskies would get the ball into their best free throw shooter in Cole Bajema (89% on the season) but it was still not in the double bonus so the lead was not entirely secured just yet. Bajema would follow Braxton Meah’s lead and calmly hit 2 free throws to help secure a 75 to 72 victory over the Buffaloes.
Turnovers were the big story of the game but the Huskies were able to hold on for the first road victory of the season and the 2nd Quad 1 victory for the Huskies (as of today). Outside of the 22 turnovers, the Huskies shot a scorching 54% from the field when they secured the ball and shot 45% from three with 9 makes.
Keion Brooks was the star of the game for the Huskies despite some costly turnover but managed to shoot 9-12 from the field and finished with 25 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 3-5 from three (5 different Huskies with a 3-pointer).
Braxton Meah would finish with a Double Double with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 2 big free throws in crunch time. Keyon Menifield would finish with 10 points and 2 assists but struggled with the Colorado pressure late in the game with 2 turnovers. Fellow Freshman Koren Johnson also struggled with 5 turnovers but had 9 points including a few key baskets before fouling out. Great learning lesson for the freshman guards on the road.
Noah Williams only finished with 7 points but had 5 points and 3 assists in the 2nd half when the Huskies were barely hanging on for life.
The Huskies (12-8, 4-5) now travel to Salt Lake City, Utah for a chance to get back to .500 in league play. Washington will only have a days rest before playing another game in elevation so it will be interesting to see what kind of energy the Huskies have left in the tank on Saturday.