BOULDER, Colo. – Inside the opponent’s locker room at the Coors Events Center there’s a strategically placed placard reminding visitors the elevation is 5,430 feet.
“Strenuous exercise should be avoided by anyone not acclimated to this altitude,” the sign reads. “Dizziness should be treated with extended rest, hydration and extreme caution.”
A few days ago, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar begrudgingly acknowledged visiting players are adversely affected by the Rocky Mountain altitude. However, he said the high elevation only causes problems in the first five minutes.
Truer words were never spoken.
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After 5 minutes and 29 seconds on Sunday against Colorado, the UW men’s basketball team was gassed, panting and trailing by 16 points.
Over the next 34½ minutes, the Huskies tried chipping away at the Buffaloes’ lead but never mounted any serious threat before falling, 91-65, in front of 9,461.
The 26-point drubbing was Washington’s worst loss of the season.
“I wouldn’t have guessed if we would have come out on the short end, it would have been like this,” Romar said.
It was the third straight defeat for Washington, which dropped to 13-11 and 5-6 in the Pac-12. The Huskies are in a three-way tie for seventh in the conference standings.
It didn’t take long for Colorado to run Washington out of the building.
Sophomore guard Xavier Talton began the game with a three-pointer and Xavier Johnson followed with a pair of fast-break slam dunks. Seconds later, junior guard Askia Booker drained another three to give Colorado a 10-0 lead with 17:56 remaining. C.J. Wilcox countered with a pair of free throws and a layup.
Freshman guard Dustin Thomas, who made his first career start, hit a three-pointer and junior forward Josh Scott made two free throws and a putback, giving the Buffaloes a 20-4 lead with 14:31 left.
“That was as good as we’ve played all season,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said.
Washington cut its deficit to seven points late in the first half, but trailed 48-33 at the break. The Huskies never got closer than 14 points in the second half.
Wilcox, who had averaged 25 points in three games against the Buffaloes, missed all seven of his three-point attempts and finished with eight points on 2-for-10 shooting. It was only the second time this season UW’s leading scorer, who averages 19.8 points, failed to score in double digits.
“My legs are a little heavy,” Wilcox said. “I don’t know if it’s the altitude or the game (at) Utah (on Thursday). … Just being the fifth-year senior, you have a responsibility to bring it every game no matter what’s going on.”
Nigel Williams-Goss led Washington with 15 points on 5-for-13 shooting and Perris Blackwell added 10.
Once again, Colorado was shorthanded against Washington. In their first meeting, a 71-54 UW win on Jan. 12 at Alaska Airlines Arena, the Buffaloes lost star guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who suffered a season-ending knee injury before halftime, and guard Tre’Shaun Fletcher, the former standout at Tacoma’s Lincoln High, who also injured his knee.
On Sunday, Colorado was also without redshirt freshman forward Wesley Gordon, who sprained his ankle during Saturday’s practice.
Early in the first half, Desmond Simmons suffered a cut on his forehead that required three stitches. Without the 6-7 junior forward, who started for the second time this season, the Huskies reverted to its four-guard lineup around Blackwell.
The smaller Huskies were no match against Colorado, which received a game-high 27 points from Johnson, 21 from Scott and 20 from Booker, who was scoreless in their first meeting.
Colorado, which led by as many as 30 points, dominated the rebounding battle 44-30. The Buffaloes shot 55.4 percent from the field, including nine three-pointers.
Freshman guard Jaron Hopkins delivered the play of the night with 9:21 left when he raced ahead on a fast break, soared high, cocked the ball behind his head and flushed a dunk over Wilcox.
“They definitely played with a chip on their shoulder after what happened up in Seattle,” Wilcox said. “They were able to get going early.”