At long last, the losing streak is over.
Exactly six weeks since their last win, the Huskies snapped an eight-game losing streak, which tied for the third longest in school history, with an 84-80 victory over Colorado on Wednesday night.
“We haven’t been winning games, but we’ve been getting better every day,” UW backup point guard Marcus Tsohonis said. “That’s something that coaches were preaching to my teammates and myself. To just keep going. It’s a long season. I’m just glad. It’s an amazing feeling to pull that one out.”
The Washington men’s basketball team outdistanced the Buffaloes in the final minutes thanks in large part to a superlative performance from Tsohonis, who tallied a career-high 27 points off the bench.
Erik Stevenson added 17 points before fouling out, Jamal Bey had 14 points and Quade Green 11 for the Huskies (2-11, 1-7 Pac-12).
“It’s amazing,” Tsohonis said. “We started realizing the more we were losing these games that we were coming up on a record. I’m just glad that we all were able to pull through. Nobody is really quitting on each other. We’re communicating. It’s getting real close. That’s a great sign.”
The previous time Washington played Colorado, the game was essentially over after 10 minutes when the Buffaloes took a 20-point lead en route to a 92-69 nonconference UW defeat on Dec. 20 in Las Vegas.
In the rematch, the Huskies proved just how much they’ve improved in recent weeks. In many ways, UW has been building toward this breakthrough.
Despite allowing at least 81 points in the past six games, Washington had lost two of its past three games by six points or fewer, including 81-76 at No. 24 UCLA in its previous outing.
“It’s really them believing in it and then being tougher,” coach Mike Hopkins said. “Another big thing is just fighting. I felt like in our first game, Colorado hit us first. They went up 6-0 tonight, but we were able to weather the storm, and we were able to score.
“We were getting open shots (last time) but couldn’t knock them down, and we got too far behind. It told somebody the other day, when we played them the first time they came out with baseball bats and we came out with napkins. Tonight we were able to match their toughness and fight right from the beginning.”
Washington missed its first seven shots, including six three-pointers, and trailed by 10 points three times in the first half. But the Huskies kept pace with Colorado and trailed 40-36 at halftime.
After the break, Tsohonis took over, scoring 18 points in 17 minutes.
“He has the ability to score obviously,” Hopkins said. “He’s very poised. He’s got a lot of experience. He’s been up and down with me throughout the year. He is just an incredible player that listens, is coachable, wants to be better and do everything he can to help the team. He had an unbelievable night tonight. He was in control of the game. He was able to get into the paint and when he got an open shot, he knocked it down.”
Tsohonis routinely dribbled into the paint and scored on high-arcing floaters. He also burned the Buffaloes while draining 4 of 6 three-pointers.
Washington was down 63-60 when Tsohonis drilled a three-pointer despite getting fouled. He converted the ensuing free throw to put UW ahead 64-63 with 9:18 left.
From there, the lead was exchanged twice and the score was tied four times before the Huskies took control for good.
Before Wednesday, the Huskies were 0-4 in games decided by 10 points or fewer and had repeatedly come up short in close games dating to last season.
This time, Washington made the plays down the stretch buoyed by a boisterous bench whose sideline antics and screams echoed throughout a near empty Alaska Airlines Arena.
“They were yelling, and they were keeping us in it,” Tsohonis said. “They were turned up on every shot that we made. I felt like in prior games when people were making shots we weren’t really that connected. We weren’t talking. You see us coming along. Everybody is on the side throwing towels and yelling. It’s a great atmosphere.”
Bey unlocked a 75-75 tie with a short jumper to spark a 6-0 run that included two short jumpers from Tsohonis for an 81-75 lead with 1:04 remaining.
Colorado, which was 1 of 18 on three-pointers, didn’t go away quietly and cut its deficit to three points in the final minute. The Buffaloes had a chance to tie it with eight seconds left, but Jeriah Horne’s three-pointer missed the mark.
Horne finished with 24 points, Evan Battey 18 while McKinley Wright had 12 points, six assists and five rebounds for Colorado, which had a four-game winning streak snapped and fell to 11-4, 5-3.
The Huskies are hoping for a winning streak when they return to the court Sunday against Utah.
“We always knew we had it in us to win these games, but I feel like that’s just going to get us over the hump,” Tsohonis said. “Just keep building off of this. Not getting our heads too big. We ‘re just going to take it game by game and try to get these wins.”