After the emotional halftime ceremony to retire Isaiah Thomas’ jersey, the Huskies ran away from Colorado in the second half.
The Washington men’s basketball team wasn’t going to lose this game.
Not on a jubilant Saturday night when Husky great Isaiah Thomas returned to Montlake and had his No. 2 jersey retired into the rafters at Alaska Airlines Arena.
And not with so many UW luminaries, including Lorenzo Romar, Markelle Fultz, Marquese Chriss, Quincy Pondexter, Jon Brockman and Spencer Hawes, sprinkled among the 9,258 spectators in the building.
After Thomas’ emotional jersey unveiling ceremony at halftime, the Huskies ran away from Colorado in the second half for an 82-59 victory that snapped their three-game losing streak and reaffirmed their push for an NCAA tournament berth.
“I know they’ve struggled in the past few games and if I was with them I’d tell them to stick together,” Thomas said. “That’s how we did it. We went through some rough patches. We used to say, ‘We all we got.’
“It’s no different now. They’ve got talent. They just need to come together as players and take control of their own destiny.”
The Huskies responded with their most complete game in weeks.
Washington held Colorado to just 4-for-13 shooting on three-pointers and 40 percent accuracy from the field while producing its third-highest-scoring performance in a Pac-12 game this season.
“It was IT’s night and we weren’t going to spoil it for him,” said junior guard Matisse Thybulle, who led the way with a career-high 26 points, including 24 in the second half.
Thybulle and the Huskies were in the UW locker room during the halftime ceremony in which Thomas’ No. 2 jersey was unveiled in the rafters next to Brandon Roy’s No. 3 and Bob Houbregs’ No. 25.
Standing at midcourt with his two sons, Jaiden and James, Thomas thanked several people and briefly recapped a storybook career in which the 5-foot-9 guard from Tacoma overcame obstacles to receive the highest honor the program can give.
Thomas choked up when he talked about his sister Chyna, who died last year in car accident.
“This one is for my little sister, I wish she was here right now to celebrate this special moment,” he said. “Thank you again. I love you guys. And go Dawgs.”
The Huskies made sure it was going to be a night to remember.
“We knew what this day meant and how important this game was not just to us, but to everybody,” Thybulle said. “This place is home. Playing in front of Markelle and Marquese, it felt like we had just got out of practice the day before like the good old days.”
Coach Mike Hopkins added, “There’s a lot of pride at this university and this school, and the guys wanted to go out and show everybody that they’re a good basketball team and I thought they did that tonight.”
The Huskies trailed 24-23 before taking control midway in the first half with an 11-0 run to go ahead 34-24. They led 39-34 at halftime.
During their three-game losing streak, the Huskies collapsed in spectacular fashion in the second halves of those defeats.
But Saturday was different as UW outscored Colorado 43-25 in the second half.
“We moved the ball really well,” said Thybulle, who sank 8 of 11 shots and finished with four steals, three rebounds, two assists and two blocks. “When the ball is moving and the defense has to rotate, it makes it really hard on them to try to find the open guys and close out on us. Today it was me who they left open. And today I was hitting shots. It could be anyone any day.”
The Huskies erased any hopes the Buffaloes had with a 21-6 run to start the second half to surge ahead 60-40.
And when Colorado cut UW’s lead to 66-50, Thybulle took over.
The junior guard sank a three-pointer before collecting a steal on the ensuing possession and going the distance for a layup. On the Huskies’ next offensive trip, he drained another three and Washington went up 74-50.
Crisis averted and the celebrations resumed in the stands while Hopkins emptied his bench.
Noah Dickerson finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Dominic Green, who started in place of Jaylen Nowell, had three three-pointers and chipped in 11 points.
“We just needed something different,” Hopkins said. “Dominic has been, I’ve always felt that shooters need to start. That was one of my philosophies I felt like we just need a spark from an exterior guy who can really nail shots. It was more of a gut thing.”
Nowell added 11 in just his second game off the bench for Washington, which improved to 18-9 and 8-6 in Pac-12.
Colorado (15-12, 7-8) received 11 points from Tyler Bey and 10 from McKinley Wright IV.
“When you have a big night like that and paying homage to one of the greats to ever come through UW, you want to come out and put out a good performance,” said junior guard David Crisp, who finished with seven points, a season-high-tying seven assists and a season-high-tying six rebounds. “After having a great ceremony like that honoring IT and everything he did and paving the way for us, it was good for us to finish the night off with an exclamation point.”
Washington plays at Stanford on Thursday.