SEATTLE — The biggest story from the Washington Huskies’ upset victory over No. 15 Colorado on Sunday afternoon was Buffaloes point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who limped out of Hec Edmundson Pavilion with a sizeable brace supporting his left knee.
To be sure, Dinwiddie’s first-half injury was a big reason why the Huskies were able to whip the Buffaloes, 71-54, before an enthusiastic crowd of 6,742 that made more noise than any at Hec Ed this season.
Of course, C.J. Wilcox and his career-high 31 points — and career-best seven 3-pointers — may have had something to do with it, too.
All of that aside, the bigger picture is that after a rough nonconference slate that produced five losses, the Huskies have started Pac-12 play with a 3-1 record and are playing like a different team than the one that lost to UC-Irvine in this building nearly two months ago.
Washington’s win Sunday was also its first victory over a top-25 team since Isaiah Thomas’ famed buzzer-beater lifted UW past No. 16 Arizona on March 11, 2011, in the Pac-10 tournament.
“You can see our guys taking more ownership of the defensive end of the floor, every day, every week,” coach Lorenzo Romar
said. “You can see our guys really believing offensively (in) what we’re doing. And then when you’re rewarded with a win, I think it just continues to increase that attitude and that belief.”
Before he dissected the win, Romar began his postgame press conference by saying he hopes Dinwiddie is OK. Colorado’s leading scorer planted his left leg during a transition opportunity late in the first half, then fell to the floor clutching his knee.
“It looked like he was about to pass, but Nigel (Williams-Goss) jumped in the lane and he had to make a last-minute adjustment, and that’s when he went down,” Wilcox said.
Dinwiddie was helped to the locker room with 2 minutes, 52 seconds to play in the half with the Buffaloes leading, 25-22. They were outscored 49-29 after Dinwiddie went down. He scored seven points in 15 minutes.
Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle said there’s no diagnosis available yet, but that his gut feeling is “not good.”
“We’ll see,” Boyle said. “If he’s out, he’s out. I just feel so bad for the kid because he’s worked so hard.”
Colorado (14-3, 3-1 in Pac-12) wasn’t the same without him, though it didn’t shoot well in the first half — 34.4 percent — with him, either.
The Buffaloes were more stagnant in the second half. If Wesley Gordon wasn’t prolonging possessions by grabbing offensive rebounds — he had 13 boards total, seven of them off Colorado misses — or if Josh Scott wasn’t using his length to score inside (a team-high 15 points), the Buffaloes were otherwise stifled by UW’s new-and-improved defense.
Second-leading scorer Askia Booker, a junior guard, did not score and missed each of his nine field-goal attempts.
With Dinwiddie out, the Huskies were able to redirect their attention on defense.
“That’s one less point of emphasis that we have to worry about on the defensive end, so it let us focus a little bit more on Scott and Askia, which helped us defend them,” UW guard Andrew Andrews said.
Meanwhile, Wilcox played one of the best games of his career. Wilcox made his first six shots of the second half — four of them 3-pointers — and teamed up with Andrews to throw dagger after dagger into the Buffaloes.
“(Wilcox) was just the recipient of good ball movement,” said Williams-Goss, who scored 12 points, “and he’s really good at moving without the ball.”
After trailing at halftime, 29-26, the Huskies (11-6, 3-1) reeled off a 30-12 run that spanned more than 10 minutes.
Wilcox said Dinwiddie’s absence opened up the floor for him on the offensive end, because the 6-foot-6 guard was shadowing him pretty well in the first half.
“He’s a good athlete,” Wilcox said. “I know they were trying to key on me and having him not leaving me as much as he normally would. He’s an athlete. It’s tough to score on athletes. When he went down, we as a team, but me as well, just had to take advantage of that.”
They did. He did. And so the progression continues, with UW heading into games this week at California and Stanford as one of the conference’s most surprising teams.
“I thought our team played excellent basketball, offensively and defensively, as a team,” Romar said. “We did it as a team, and that was great to see.”
CRISP TO UW
Rainier Beach senior point guard David Crisp wrote Sunday on Twitter he’s committed to play for UW but will be part of the 2015-16 class as he’s going to a prep school in the fall.
“I have officially committed to the University of Washington! #GoDawgs” Crisp wrote on Twitter.
Crisp played his first three seasons at Clover Park, helping the Warriors, along with Cal recruit Ahmaad Rorie, win the state title his freshman season in 2011.
washington 71, No. 15 colorado 54
Player of the game: C.J. Wilcox has been steady this season, but his performance Sunday might have been the best of his career. Wilcox scored a career-best 31 points on 12-for-18 shooting, and made a career-best seven of his 12 attempts from 3-point range. He scored 21 points in the second half, taking advantage of the absence of Buffaloes guard Spencer Dinwiddie.
It was over when: Wilcox made his final 3-pointer with 6:45 to go, giving the Huskies a 61-43 lead.
Stat of the game: Colorado guard Askia Booker, the second-leading scorer on the team, scored zero points on 0-for-9 shooting in 24 minutes.
Quotable: “When he draws a lot of attention, it makes it easier for me to get in the lane and find my shots. So every time he gets going, I kind of get happy. I’m probably going to be the recipient of them playing less defense on me.” – UW guard Andrew Andrews on Wilcox’s hot shooting day
What it means: The final score of this game will be accompanied by an imaginary asterisk, because it would have been more competitive if Dinwiddie hadn’t gone down in the first half with a knee injury. Regardless, it’s the Huskies’ first victory over a ranked opponent since 2011, and it was the kind of game they have to win if they plan to play in the NCAA tournament. UW continues to prove that it won’t be an easy out in this conference this season.
Next up: Washington at California, 8 p.m. Wednesday, ESPNU.christian.caple@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports email@example.com