Boyle's Buffs Head To Northwest For Two Pac-12 Contests
SEATTLE — Tad Boyle's Colorado Buffaloes head to the Pacific Northwest this week for a pair of Pac-12 games, beginning with a Wednesday matchup at Washington (7 p.m. MT, ESPN2).
The Buffs (11-3 overall, 5-2 Pac-12) will wrap up the trip Saturday at Washington State in a 6 p.m. contest (ESPN2).
Just 10 days ago, the Buffs were stuck in the middle of the conference standings with a 2-2 league mark, mired in what Boyle refers to as the "muck."
But now, with three wins last week — and four in a row overall — Colorado is tied for third with USC and just one game in the loss column behind second-place Oregon. The trip offers the opportunity for CU to at least maintain its position and possibly move up as the Buffs near the halfway point of the conference schedule.
Wednesday's matchup will be the second of the season between the Buffs and Huskies, with Colorado taking a 92-69 non-conference win over UW back in mid-December in Las Vegas.
But, Boyle said, the Huskies are an improved team. While they still sit at the bottom of the league with an 0-7 record (1-11 overall), they are coming off one of their best performances of the year, an 81-76 loss to first place UCLA. The Huskies led by 10 at the half and had a 70-69 lead late in the game before being outscored in the final minutes.
"Washington is much improved," Boyle said. "They've got good players and they've been right there in a lot of games, they just haven't pulled them out. They're better at home. We'd better put our hard hats on."
In their first meeting, the Buffs were outstanding on both ends of the floor. Center Dallas Walton — who could return after missing the last six games with an injury — led CU with 22 points, and he was joined by four other Buffs in double-figure scoring. The Buffs led 52-30 at the half en route to scoring what is thus far a season-high 92 points.
Washington does have some capable scorers, led by senior guard Quade Green (15.4 ppg). But their bread and butter is still coach Mike Hopkins' 2-3 zone defense, which has given the Buffs fits in past years.
"Usually teams in their own building, their own environment, they're very comfortable there," Boyle said. "If you can find a way to guard people when you're on the road and make it really tough for them to score, if you can get those stops, you have an opportunity to run and score in transition … When they get that zone set up in the halfcourt, they're a handful. The best way to score against a zone is don't let it get set up. Get stops and run in transition."
The Buffs have been solid on the road this year with a 3-3 record that includes a win at USC. But they haven't had a lot of luck in Seattle, with UW having won the last four meetings there.
NATIONAL LEADERS: Colorado leads the nation in free throw shooting at 84.6 percent (208 of 246 attempts). The Buffaloes were 12 of 13 in last weekend's win over Stanford, their 14th straight game to begin the season shooting 73.3 percent or better from the line. Colorado has shot 80 percent or better in 10 games and at least 90 percent in four. The Buffaloes, who have made at least 10 free throws in all 14 games, have 11 contests where they've missed three or fewer and six with just one or two misses.
NATIONAL RANKINGS: Colorado is No. 7 in the latest NCAA Evaluation Tool rankings (NET), used by the organization to evaluate teams for the Division I Tournament, as of Jan. 19. The Buffs also made their national polls debut this week, checking in at No. 23 in the USA Today poll. They also received votes in the AP poll.
SCOUTING WSU: The Cougars, who host Utah on Thursday, currently sit at 9-4 overall and 2-4 in the Pac-12. Washington State started the season with eight straight wins, but has since cooled off, losing four of its last five.
They are led by guards Isaac Bonton (18.9 ppg) and Noah Williams (12.0 ppg) while center Efe Abogidi leads in rebounding with 8.2 boards per game.
The Cougars have given the Buffs fits in recent years, with wins in three of their last five meetings.
That includes an 82-68 victory over CU in last year's Pac-12 tournament opener — the first time the Buffs have ever lost a Pac-12 tourney opener. The loss also proved to be Colorado's last game of the season, as an anticipated NCAA Tournament bid was wiped out by the Covid-19 pandemic.
BROADCAST: Wednesday's game will be televised by ESPN2 with Roxy Bernstein and Adrian Branch. The radio broadcast can be heard on KOA 850 AM and 94.1 FM with Voice of the Buffs Mark Johnson and Scott Wilke.