"Well the defensive end of the floor did it for us, our guys came out active early, dialed in, focused, and set the tone for the rest of the game," Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said. "Our guys did a nice job defending individually and as a team. That’s a good bunch and our guys stepped up I thought.”
UW (12-5, 4-0) was led by the 25 points of C.J. Wilcox and the 13 points of Scott Suggs. Spencer Dinwiddie paced Colorado (11-6, 1-4) with 13 points, while Andre Roberson added 10 points and 10 rebounds in a losing effort.
“Our offense has to get better, the motion is terrible right now," Roberson said. "One thing we have to improve on, executing on the offensive end is one of our main keys.”
It was a 180 degree turnaround from last year, when the Huskies traveled to Boulder and got smacked by CU to the tune of 87-69.
“They are much better defensively," CU Head Coach Tad Boyle said afterward. "Last year they had the (Tony) Wroten kid who was out there trying to steal and gamble a lot. They are so long, athletic, they have the big guy in the middle. You have to score and execute against Washington because you are not going to get anything easy and we have to get better on the offensive side of the ball in terms of execution to beat teams like this and that is something we need to work on.”
"They are a very physical team," UW guard Abdul Gaddy after the game. "I know last year when we played them, it felt like they had an advantage over us physically so coming into this game we had to be very physical especially boxing those guys out, Roberson a very good rebounder, so we had to be the better physical team.”
Washington extended their lead from five with 9:33 remaining in the game to as many as 12 with 10 seconds left before a Dinwiddie jumper gave the eventual margin of victory. They did it on the free throw line, where they were able to shoot in the bonus with over eight minutes to go. They took 18 of their 23 foul shots during this stretch, making 14. They shot over 78 percent from the line throughout the game.
It's the first time in recent memory that the Huskies have kept opponents to less than 40 percent shooting for four games in a row. They didn't have a great night themselves, as they shot 34 percent from the field, but they used timely three-point shooting from Wilcox and Scott Suggs to keep the Buffaloes at bay when they tried to make a run. The Huskies tied their season low, holding Colorado to only 20 first half points. They did the same at California a week ago.
"We always knew that we could play good defense, we came into the season saying that's what we needed to do," Wilcox said post-game. "It took some time to get it into our head that that’s the way we need to play. I think we are starting to learnt hat and like Gaddy said, we are getting better game by game.”
It was also a stepping stone game for some of the younger Huskies, including freshman forward Jernard Jarreau. The 6-foot-10 Jarreau, from New Orleans, played 10 minutes and knocked down two free throws during a key stretch in the second half to help push the Huskies' lead. He followed it up with a steal on the other end that led to a Wilcox jumper to put UW ahead 48-38, part of a quick 5-0 run.
"Jernard is a great player," said Gaddy. "Looking at the guys that come off the bench, Jernard, Shawn and Andrews specifically, we need those guys to come in with energy and they have been giving us energy all year especially in conference play so we always continue to tell those guys it’s not about the starters. They always come in and give great energy so they have been playing well.”
That five-point run essentially put the Buffaloes on their heels for good because they had no answer from three-point range. Only Roberson hit one for CU, and it was off glass.
“If we are playing the type of defense we are supposed to be, we are up pressuring the ball, if we are pressuring the ball and determined to get through threes, it gives you a chance to contest all the shots," Romar said of the Huskies' recent ability to keep offenses from going off from deep. In the last five games Washington's opponents are a combined 12-67 (18 percent). "We really talk about contested shots and chart them and want to be on the plus side – contesting more shots than are uncontested.
The 4-0 conference start for Washington matches the same start had by the 2011 Huskies. In the last 35 years, the only other times UW started 4-0 were 1982 and 1984. Both the '82 and '84 teams went 6-0 before losing at Oregon State and Stanford, respectively. This year's team has already won at Stanford and has a chance with a win Saturday versus Utah to give Romar his best league start ever as Washington's head coach.
“Before the season started, I think I had mentioned that this group perhaps was maybe the most coachable and had the best chemistry of any team we’ve had, not last year," Romar said. "Didn’t say it was the best team, just chemistry. I think that’s the reason we are able to do that. We don’t have several guys sulking because they aren’t getting more shots. The guys are all for one and one for all. That’s kind of how it is, it makes a difference.”
Points: Wilcox 25, Suggs 13, Andrews 9, Gaddy 8, N'Diaye 6, Jarreau 2, Simmons 1
Rebounds: Simmons 12, N'Diaye 11, Gaddy 5, Andrews 3, Suggs 2, Jarreau 2, Wilcox 1, Kemp 1
Assists: Gaddy 3, Suggs 2, Andrews 2, Simmons 1, Wilcox 1
Blocks: N'Diaye 3, Wilcox 1, Jarreau 1
Steals: Gaddy 2, Wilcox 2, N'Diaye 1, Jarreau 1