BOULDER, Colo. – This time the Huskies didn’t blow a big lead in the final minutes.
Instead, Washington gave up 51 points in the first half to No. 23 Colorado, fell behind by 18 points before the break and never mounted much of a comeback for a deflating 76-62 defeat Saturday night.
“At the beginning, they fought harder,” UW coach Mike Hopkins said. “We just didn’t have that same pop at the beginning of the game that we needed to. … You’ve got to give Colorado (credit). They came out and tried to swing first and hit us.”
Unlike many of their recent defeats when they’ve squandered double-digit leads in the second half, the Huskies never really got into this game until it was too late.
Even worse, Washington (12-9, 2-6 Pac-12) appears to be unraveling in a midseason slump in which it has lost seven of the past nine games.
In front of a raucous crowd of 9,521 at CU Events Center, all of the Huskies’ frustrations bubbled to the surface during a mistake-prone performance that included three technical fouls and 20 turnovers.
Perhaps sensing the game slipping away early, Hopkins verbally tore into the officials and needed to be restrained by assistants while complaining about what he perceived to be an overly aggressive Buffaloes defense.
The sideline tirade earned Hopkins a technical, the second during his UW tenure and first since 2018.
“At the beginning as a coach you just wanted, sometimes you get banged or you see some inconsistencies,” Hopkins said. “It shouldn’t happen to me.”
Following the Hopkins’ technical, Lucas Siewert converted the ensuing two free throws and the Buffaloes sank three three-pointers and a long jumper to pull ahead 27-11 with 10:26 left in the first half.
That’s when UW freshman sharp-shooter RaeQuan Battle answered with a three-point barrage of his own and canned a series of long-range daggers to keep things close.
Battle and Nahziah Carter canned back-to-back three-pointers that cut CU’s deficit to 39-31 with 3:43 before the break.
However, the Buffaloes finished the first half with a 12-2 run to take a 51-39 lead.
It was the most points for a UW opponent in the first half in the past two seasons.
“We just weren’t ready for it,” Battle said. “We just weren’t ready.”
Washington closed to 10 points with 6:38 left, but never got any closer.
“I felt like we were really poised to get back to 10, but like any good team if you miss a shot and they make a shot then the crowd gets back into it and it’s like a shot of adrenaline for them,” Hopkins said. “So many things have to go right when you’re down. We missed some layups. We missed some foul shots. Those games when you’re down 18 you’re fighting and it’s pretty hard to overcome those.”
And it becomes nearly impossible when players miss dunks and collect technical fouls.
Hopkins said Battle picked up a technical for throwing a ball too hard at an official while backup center Bryan Penn-Johnson got a technical after hanging on the rim.
In the past two games, Washington has four technical fouls, including the one on Jaden McDaniels on Thursday.
And speaking of McDaniels, Hopkins benched the standout freshman forward for the first time this season.
Hopkins said McDaniels is still recovering from an ankle injury suffered Jan. 11 that caused him to miss a game.
But the UW coach pinned McDaniels’ demotion on his recent performances.
“A big thing for me is we’re playing a certain way and that’s how we want you to play,” Hopkins said. “You can’t force things. You’ve got to play as a team. If we play as a team we have a chance to be really special. If we play one-on-one then we’re just not going to be.”
McDaniels, who finished with two points on 1-for-6 shooting in nine minutes, played just two minutes in the second half.
Meanwhile, Battle, who made his second start in place of McDaniels, scored 12 points on four three-pointers – all in the first half.
“Coming into the season we were supposed to be Top 25 in the nation and we’re playing a 23 team,” Battle said when asked about UW’s technical fouls. “It’s going to be a battle from the jump. Emotions were all over the place. We’re trying to get a bucket. We were down almost 20. It’s going to get physical.”
Battle and Carter (12 points and three three-pointers) comprised an inside-outside assault with Isaiah Stewart, who finished with a game-high 23 points on 9-for-12 shooting, eight rebounds and four blocks.
Colorado (16-4, 5-2), which snapped a five-game losing streak against Washington, countered with a three-man attack that included Tyler Bey (16 points), McKinley Wright IV (15) and Siewert (12).
Washington returns home to face No. 22 Arizona on Thursday in what looks to be a must-win game if the Huskies hope to salvage their postseason hopes.
“It’s tough,” Stewart said. “We’re trying to win. We’re in a deep hole right now and we’re trying to dig ourselves back out, but obviously we keep digging ourselves deeper.”
Stewart said he’s “embarrassed” by the Huskies’ record and put the onus on UW players to snap their three-game losing streak.
“I’ll run through a brick wall for coach Hop and I’ll continue to do that every night to try and get him a win,” Stewart said. “I’m not putting this on no teammates. I’m not putting this on nobody. As a whole we have to step up. As a whole we have to play as one.”