SEATTLE — The circumstances were projected to be reversed when this game popped up on the schedule.
Prior to the season, Washington looked at what was ahead and saw three consecutive road games to open conference play and would have been happy with any victories. Colorado, coming off a trip to the third round in the NCAA tournament, was expected to challenge for the Pacific-12 Conference crown.
Instead, the Huskies (11-5 overall, 3-0 Pac-12) swept those three and take on the waffling Buffaloes (11-5, 1-3) in a night-owl special that tips at 8:30 p.m. today in Washington’s conference home opener.
Colorado has lost three of four to open conference play, including the infamous overtime loss to Arizona in which an apparent winning 3-pointer by guard Sabatino Chen was ruled too late. Three nights later, the Buffaloes lost at Arizona State. Colorado’s only conference win is over bottom-feeder USC.
Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle says Colorado has moved on from the Arizona loss, but also admits
that you never get over something like that.
Washington has moved on in a different fashion. In all three conference wins, the Huskies have held opponents to worse than 40 percent shooting from the field and outrebounded each team, a distinct change from earlier in the season. All three games became tight in the second half, yet Washington was able to stabilize and win. That has Washington coach Lorenzo Romar and many of the Huskies citing the team’s positive chemistry.
Romar said one play in the Stanford game illustrates the bond.
Washington headed up the floor on a break and Desmond Simmons ran along with C.J. Wilcox. The whole time, Simmons told Wilcox he was going to screen for him. Simmons did just that, then signaled for the ball to be swung to Wilcox who finished the play with a wide open 3-pointer.
“That’s chemistry, when things like that begin to happen,” Romar said.
Wilcox’s high level of skill helps. He was named Pac-12 Player of the Week after averaging 23 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 blocks during the two-game sweep of Cal and Stanford last week in the Bay Area. He’s averaging 8 rebounds per game during Pac-12 play and leads the conference in scoring at 21.3 points per game.
He even has a side bet with center Aziz N’Diaye about who will lead the team in blocks. Wilcox has 22 and the 7-foot N’Diaye has 21.
Romar thought Wilcox’s game against Stanford was the junior’s best for the Huskies. The past three wins have been UW’s best run of the season defensively. The Huskies have transformed from a sieve to the conference’s second-best team in field-goal percentage defense.
All of which is nice, but comes with the required caution that 15 games remain in conference play.
“It’s a whole different ballgame (tonight),” Romar said. “We have to continue to try and improve and not rest on the fact that we’ve won three games here.”
Colorado (11-5 overall, 1-3 PAC-12) at Washington (11-5, 3-0)
8:30 p.m., Alaska Airlines Arena
TV: Pac-12 Networks. Radio: 950-AM, 102.9-FM.
All-time series: Series is tied 7-7
PlayerPos PPG RPG APG FG%FT%
Desmond SimmonsF6.08.21.1 35.975.0
Aziz N’DiayeF22.214.171.124 64.647.3
Scouting report: The Buffs will be coming into Hec Ed irritated and ready. Colorado spreads it around, with four starters averaging double figures. Andre Roberson leads the conference in rebounding (11.8) and along with Josh Scott, forms a tall (Scott is 6-foot-10, Roberson 6-7) and lanky (each has a 7-foot-plus wingspan) frontline. Guard Spencer Dinwiddie is viewed as an NBA prospect. Though Askia Booker leads Colorado in scoring, he shoots just 40.4 percent. His decision-making is questionable and the Buffs don’t really have a true point guard among their starters.
Next: Utah pays a visit to Washington at 8 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU).email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas firstname.lastname@example.org