The Colorado Buffaloes do not like to make it easy on themselves. In the second close game of the week, the Buffs managed to hold off the visiting Washington Huskies 81-80. Wesley Gordon lead the Buffs with 17 points and 13 rebounds as he recorded his third straight double-double in three games where five of the six halves have been played without Josh Scott.
Washington opened the scoring with a Matisse Thybulle three and looked to be the stronger team early on. The Huskies held a two point lead through the first media timeout, but that was when Colorado took their chance to strike. The Buffs tied the game at eight on a layup by Wesley Gordon and shortly thereafter took a lead that they would never relinquish, courtesy of George King, who finished the night with 10 points. The rest of the first half was all CU as they went on a 25-10 run over the next ten minutes to push the lead to a game high 17. The team was up 33-17 and appeared to be cruising to a win over a Washington team that got the better of them a month ago, despite not having Josh Scott.
It was the second straight game without Scott, who sprained his ankle in the first half against Oregon a week and a half ago. Gordon had a fantastic first half that he topped off with a tip-in at the buzzer to put the team up 12.
"Wesley is a monster." George King said postgame, "I think he is really underrated and I am lucky to have him as a teammate. He plays great defense, he rebounds, and he is a threat offensively when he catches it down low too."
Washington seemed to find an answer for Gordon in the second half, as they did the rest of what the Buffs were doing. The Huskies saw a big jump in their efficiency from the field as they shot 45.5% after the half, a 12.5% increase as they outscored the home team 46-35 in the final 20.
Colorado was unable to continue taking care of the ball as well as they did against Washington State. The eight turnovers the team committed on Thursday was a number they equaled in the first half on Saturday. The player who was bit hardest by the turnover bug was Josh Fortune, who committed seven of the 22 that had occurred by the end of the game.
Washington opened the second half on an 8-0 run and had the game within one following Josh Fortune's third turnover of the half with 15:33 to play. Then, it was the Buffs turn to make a run; over the next 6:47 the team took charge with a 24-10 run that was sparked by freshman point guard Thomas Akyazili who scored nine straight.
Foul trouble was an issue for both sides all game long. Thomas Akyazili, just a few minutes removed from being the spark, fouled out with 56 seconds to play as he was given a technical following an interaction with Marquese Chriss in front of the Washington bench. When the final whistle sounded, six of the 10 players on the court had committed four fouls.
"It's hard," Boyle said of the team dealing with foul trouble. "Coaches were wondering when we wanted to go back with Dom and Wes. It was about the four minute mark and we were playing zone. I wanted to steal some more. We were up nine. I wanted to steal one or more possessions and get stops against their zone, use shot clock and maybe once or twice get fouled."
Following the Akyazili technical, which gave the Huskies the free throws as well as possession, Andrew Andrews made both and the game was 81-80. However, the defense held strong. With one second to go, Marquese Thybulle launched an inbound pass down the floor, but it went over everyone's head on it's way out of bounds as the Buffs held on to secure the victory. Colorado moves to 19-7 with the win, while Washington falls to 15-10.
Coach Boyle and company head to California to take on #23 USC on Wednesday and UCLA on Saturday. The team will return home to face Arizona on Wednesday, February 24th and Arizona State on Senior Night, Sunday the 28.