Washington Huskies

Huskies hold off Colorado, 95-83, at Hec Ed

Washington's Marquese Chriss, right, leaps above the crowd to knock the ball away from Colorado's George King (24) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, in Seattle.
Washington's Marquese Chriss, right, leaps above the crowd to knock the ball away from Colorado's George King (24) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, in Seattle. AP

Before Washington’s Wednesday night game against Colorado even began, the Huskies claimed a minor victory.

For the first time in recent memory, the student section actually was filled to capacity.

It reminded of old times, even if the rest of Hec Edmundson Pavilion hosted only a modest crowd. And maybe that festive environment begat the result that followed.

Or maybe the Huskies really have improved this much since the start of the season.

It looked that way on Wednesday, anyway. Washington continued its impressive start to Pac-12 play with a 95-83 victory over the Buffaloes, who entered the game with a 14-4 overall record and ranked 24th in the RPI.

But the Huskies used their defensive pressure to race to a 14-point halftime lead, built that margin to 22 in the second half, and withstood a late Colorado run to improve their record to 13-5 overall and 5-1 in Pac-12 play.

UW won five conference games all of last season. But the Huskies continue to prove just how much they’ve changed in a year.

In the first half alone, Marquese Chriss flushed a two-handed jam off an alley-oop lob from Dejounte Murray, who later had a two-handed jam off a lob from Andrew Andrews. Malik Dime punched through a left-handed dunk off a lob from David Crisp.

Those highlights set the tone for UW’s big run, an 18-5 stretch that pushed the Huskies’ lead to 33-22. They extended the margin to 47-33 by halftime, despite the fact that Andrews, the Pac-12’s leading scorer, played only 12 minutes due to foul trouble.

It was one of Chriss’ finest performances of the season. The freshman forward fouled out in the final minute, but finished with 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting, with six rebounds and five blocked shots.

Andrews, who finished with a game-high 33 points — and 25 in the second half — made up for lost time by scoring 10 points in the first four minutes after intermission, which helped the Huskies to a 64-42 lead.

Colorado didn’t go away. Dominique Collier sank a pair of 3-pointers during a 10-0 run to cut UW’s lead to 71-59, though the Huskies responded with eight consecutive points to push their advantage back to 20.

But again, the Buffaloes chipped into the margin, using 3-pointers by guards George King and Josh Fortune, a bucket by Josh Scott — he scored 18 points, 15 in the second half — and a free throw by Tory Miller to make it 83-73 with 3:58 to play.

Colorado couldn’t cut the UW lead any further than nine points, though, and Andrews made all eight of his free-throw attempts in the final 1:26 —he was 16 of 17 overall — to put it away.

Murray added 17 points for the Huskies, and Dime had 10 points and seven blocked shots.

Christian Caple: 253-597-8437, @ChristianCaple

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