After a three-game road skid, Colorado went into Thursday night’s home matchup against Washington with high hopes of getting back on the winning track. But after poor shooting numbers and a last-second shot, the Buffaloes lost the battle, 52-50.
“That was a heartbreaker, to say the least,” head coach Tad Boyle said. “I’m disappointed in the loss, but I’m really pleased with our effort and our fight. I thought we guarded well tonight and we rebounded well enough tonight to win, but we didn’t take care of the ball well enough and obviously we didn’t shoot the ball well enough to beat a team.”
Despite losing their fourth straight game, one bright spot emerged from the darkness.
Going in, Boyle knew that rebounding would play a key role in staying in this game. And, thanks to sophomore forward Wesley Gordon’s career-high 17 rebounds, they did just that. The Buffs managed to outrebound the Huskies by a margin of 5, 40-35.
Sophomore forward Jaron Hopkins led the scoring with 11 points and five rebounds, which was followed closely by Gordon’s 10 points. For the night, the Buffs shot 31.7 percent from the field, and fared much worse from three at 26.3 percent.
Despite the final score, Washington’s offensive game didn’t prove much better. They only managed 36 percent from the field while sinking only 25 percent of their treys.
“We just got to get better individually and as a team, just come back and work every day in practice,” Hopkins said. “We’re not going to hang our heads, we just got to get better tomorrow.”
Starting out, the Buffs and the Huskies played what can only be described as ugly basketball. For the majority of the first part of the half, each team turned the ball over left and right, followed by innumerable empty possessions.
The Huskies gained the first lead of the game in the opening minutes with a lone free throw before the Buffs took over. They went up by as much as six points, 7-1, seven minutes in before Washington kicked it back into gear and briefly regained the lead.
But, as with their previous lead, it was short lived, after a layup from Nigel Williams-Goss put the Huskies up 12-11. Colorado’s Eli Stalzer hit his first three-point shot since last season to send the Buffs on a 13-7 scoring streak to end the half.
At the buzzer, the Buffs led the Dogs 24-19. And nothing about that half was pretty.
For the half, the Huskies shot a measly 7-23 from the field (30.4 percent), while only sinking two of their seven three-point shots (28.6 percent). They also committed eight turnovers.
Despite the halftime score, the Buffs shot even worse than their opponents. Colorado only managed 8-27 from the field (29.6 percent), while making one more trey in as many attempts (3-7, 42.9 percent). They committed six turnovers of their own.
As the clock picked back up in the second half, so did the pace of the game. Within the first three minutes of play, the Buffs outscored the Huskies 7-6. Collectively, the two teams scored more points in these three minutes than in the first seven of the first half.
After holding the lead for much of the game, things quickly turned south for the Buffaloes after a 7-0 run by the Huskies put them down 48-42 midway through the second half. Sure, CU went on a 6-0 run to respond and tie up the game, but it wasn’t enough to keep the ball rolling for this Buffs’ offense.
Once the Buffs tied the score up at 48 with 4:16 to go, it was a dog fight throughout the final minutes of the game. When the clock struck 2:16, the score tied up again at 50 for the seventh and final time.
With 34 seconds left on the clock, the Buffs had the chance to gain the lead once more with their final possession, but instead sloppy ball handling turned the ball over to the Huskies. After some exceptional play-calling by Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar, Andrew Andrews hit a two-point jumper with 0.3 seconds left on the clock to do the Buffs in.
“We drew up a play, I just turned the ball over, costly turnover,” Hopkins said. “It was a big moment in the game and I pretty much lost it.”
With this loss, the Buffs dropped four straight games and fell to their worst start of the Tad Boyle era with nine wins and nine losses, 2-4 in conference play. As Gordon put it after the game, the team will need “short term memory” to get them over this slump and mentally ready to take on the Washington State Cougars on Saturday, Jan. 24 at 6 p.m. on their home court.
“It’s all about getting better tomorrow,” Boyle said. “Whether you win four in a row or you lose four in a row, it’s about the next day at practice, the next game at hand, what you got to do to win the next game. You don’t worry about streaks.”
But Boyle doesn’t count this game as a total loss.
“In the long run, this will be good for Colorado basketball,” Boyle said. “I really believe that, because we got a lot of young guys but one senior on this team. We got a lot of guys who are growing, who are developing, who are learning…Sometimes you got to get worse, and you got to get beat and you got to get pummeled a little bit to get better.”