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CU Buffs seek victorious end to road woes, Pac-12 rivalry with Washington

Jan. 23—It might not be the most encouraging situation.

The Colorado men's basketball team, dominant at times, has struggled on the road. The Buffaloes struggled in Seattle even before joining the Pac-12 Conference, and those struggles have snowballed since.

Still, a Buffs team that remains well-positioned in the conference race, and that played well against Washington while shorthanded five weeks ago, has an opportunity to reverse its road fortunes when it opens its final league swing through Washington against the Huskies on Wednesday night.

CU is 0-4 in true road games this season and 2-13 since the start of last season. The Buffs also are just 2-14 at Washington all-time with a 1-9 mark in Pac-12 play, including losses in the past seven trips to Alaska Airlines Arena.

"We've got to get tougher mentally. We've got to dig in," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "We've got to not accept that. If we want things to change, we've got to change them. Washington isn't going to give us anything. Washington State's not going to give us anything (on Saturday). We have to go take whatever we get. And we haven't been able to do that. Two one-possession games, we came up short.

"We had time and score situations that we worked on (this week). Whether we're ahead, whether we're behind, whether we're tied, whatever the case may be we have to have a lot of confidence in executing on both sides of the ball. That's what it's going to take to win those games."

CU gutted out a 73-69 win against UW in the Pac-12 opener at home on Dec. 29, holding off the Huskies while playing without freshman wing Cody Williams and senior forward Tristan da Silva. The Buffs flashed improved defense at times during a recently-completed 3-0 homestand, but still are striving to put the clamps down for a full 40 minutes.

The Huskies are one of several teams that have taken advantage of CU's half-to-half defensive struggles, posting a .485 mark with five 3-pointers in the second half at the Events Center after shooting just .281 in the first half.

"I'd say just the biggest thing is we've got to take care of what we do on the road," Williams said. "I think the hardest thing in those games is you have to bring your own energy. We're not going to have the crowd cheering for us when we come out to the court. We're going to be having boos. Fans going crazy against us. So I think the biggest thing is to really trust each other as a team and create our own energy so that way we can get off to a good start and we carry that over for two halves. That's kind of been our focal point the whole season."

Just one victory could rebuild CU's road confidence while ending a forgettable run in Seattle as league rivals with the Huskies. Alaska Airlines Arena is where Spencer Dinwiddie suffered his season-ending knee injury on Jan. 12, 2014, ending his CU career. In 2020-21, an NCAA Tournament-bound Buffs squad that had just rolled UW by 23 points in Las Vegas a month earlier went 1-for-18 on 3-pointers while surrendering 84 points — 15 more than the previous matchup — in a four-point loss in Seattle.

Two years ago, da Silva was coming off a 5-for-6, 15-point showing in a rare win at Oregon when COVID struck, sidelining him for what turned into a frustrating two-point loss at UW. Yet he and his teammates still have an opportunity to script a different ending to the rivalry before CU returns to the Big 12 and UW joins the Big Ten.

"Wednesday night at 8 o'clock (PT) in Seattle, we've got to be ready to rock and roll," Boyle said. "The other stuff, it doesn't matter."

CU Buffs men's basketball at Washington Huskies

TIPOFF: Wednesday, 9 p.m. MT, Alaska Airlines Arena, Seattle.

TV/RADIO: ESPNU/KOA 850 AM and 94.1 FM.

RECORDS: Colorado 14-5,5-3 Pac-12 Conference; Washington 11-8, 3-5.

COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, 14th season (286-177, 342-243 overall). Washington — Mike Hopkins, 7th season (112-99, 116-104 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: Colorado — G KJ Simpson, 6-2, Jr. (19.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 4.3 apg, .5101 FG%, .472 3%); F Tristan da Silva, 6-9, Sr. (15.97 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.9 apg, .509 FG%); G Cody Williams, 6-8, Fr. (15.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg, .589 FG%, .500 3%); F J'Vonne Hadley, 6-6, Sr. (10.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.6 apg, .565 FG%); C Eddie Lampkin Jr., 6-11, Sr. (10.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg, .534 FG%); G Julian Hammond III, 6-2, Jr. (7.8 ppg, .420 3%); G/F Luke O'Brien, 6-8, Sr. (7.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg). Washington — F Keion Brooks Jr., 6-7, Gr. (20.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg, .397 3%); G Sahvir Wheeler, 5-9, Gr. (16.1 ppg, 5.9 apg, 3.5 rpg); F Moses Wood, 6-8, Gr. (11.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg); G Koren Johnson, 6-2, So. (9.2 ppg).

NOTES: Simpson and Lampkin led the way when the shorthanded Buffs topped UW at home on Dec. 29. Simpson recorded his second career double-double with 21 points and a career-high-tying 10 rebounds, adding seven assists and three steals. Lampkin also posted a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. ... UW is coming off a 1-2 run in three consecutive road games, losing at UCLA and Stanford but winning at California. ... The Buffs still are averaging 13.2 turnovers, the second-most in the conference, but they have lowered that average to 12.1 in league play. CU has posted three of its lowest turnover totals in the past four games, and in the other game they had 12, which until the recent run was the previous season low. ... CU's three-game road swing continues at Washington State on Saturday (3 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Network).