As Washington prepares for its 11 a.m. Saturday game at Colorado, two questions percolate.
One: Will Buffaloes leading scorer Josh Scott play?
And two: Whether he does or doesn’t, will Washington play any defense?
Scott sat out of Colorado’s wild 88-81 double-overtime victory Thursday night against Washington State due to an ankle injury. Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle said then that the 6-foot-10 senior forward was day-to-day.
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Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said after his team’s practice Friday that he figures Scott will be in the starting lineup.
If Scott can’t play, his absence would dramatically change the complexion of Colorado’s team, both offensively and defensively. Scott averages 16.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, and the Buffaloes came perilously close to losing to the last-place Cougars without him.
“When Scott’s on the floor, he frees all those guys up to become better offensive players, because you concentrate so much on him,” Romar said. “Those guys are the beneficiary of the game plan, usually, to stop Josh Scott. And when he’s not on the floor, you can guard those guys a little close, pay a little more attention to them. So it makes a big difference.”
Put him back in the lineup, though, and the Huskies suddenly have to deal with another dynamic low-post scorer. They didn’t fare so well against the last one they faced, Utah’s Jakob Poeltl, who carved them for 23 points on 11-for-12 shooting in a 90-82 UW loss Wednesday night in Salt Lake City.
In fact, the Utes simply carved the Huskies, period, shooting 67.3 percent from the field and 70.4 percent in the second half.
After reviewing the film of that game, Romar said it was evident that his team stopped communicating on defense, for whatever reason, after the first nine minutes.
“After that, we were just so quiet,” Romar said as the Huskies finished their Friday practice at the Coors Events Center. “One guy decides he’s going to switch and the other guy decides not to, and you’re not communicating. If you communicate, there are no mistakes. But we did not communicate, and that allowed them to get some easy, easy baskets.”
Colorado (18-7, 7-5 Pac-12) didn’t get very many easy baskets the first time these teams met this season. The Huskies beat the Buffaloes, 95-83, in Seattle Jan. 20. They led by as many as 22 points, forced 16 turnovers, held Colorado to 41.9 percent shooting from the field and set a single-game school record with 15 blocked shots.
Afterward, Romar said it was the most efficient game the Huskies had played to that point.
But Colorado is so different at home. The Buffaloes have lost only one game here this season, a 56-54 defeat against Utah decided by a last-second shot from Lorenzo Bonam. First-place Oregon lost here on Jan. 17. Colorado swept Stanford and California at home two weekends ago.
So Washington (15-9, 7-5) would do well to channel that performance from Jan. 20 in Seattle.
In that game, Romar said, “We were so locked in defensively. There was communicating. We were moving on a string. We were executing defensively. We were able to get up by 22 in that game, by 22 against that team, and that’s not easy to do, and all of their guys were playing. But we were so locked in and dialed in, and that made a big difference.”
UW (15-9, 7-5 Pac-12) at Colorado (18-7, 7-5)
11 a.m., Coors Events Center, Boulder, Colorado
TV: Pac-12 Networks. Radio: 1000-AM, 97.7-FM
All-time series: Washington leads the series 11-9.
PROJECTED STARTERS (statistics for 2015-16):
24 George King, G (6-6, RSo.): 14.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg
44 Josh Fortune, G (6-5, RJr.): 10.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg
15 Dominique Collier, G (6-2, So.): 8.3 ppg, 3.1 apg
1 Wesley Gordon, F (6-9, RJr.): 7.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg
40 Josh Scott, F (6-10, Sr.): 16.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg
12 Andrew Andrews, G (6-2, RSr.): 20.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 4.7 apg
5 Dejounte Murray, G (6-4 1/2, Fr.): 14.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 4.6 apg
4 Matisse Thybulle, G (6-5, Fr.): 6.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg
15 Noah Dickerson, F (6-8, Fr.): 8.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg
0 Marquese Chriss, F (6-9, Fr.): 12.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg
Scouting report: UW coach Lorenzo Romar said the Huskies are preparing as if Scott will be in the starting lineup, though his status is uncertain as he recovers from a sprained ankle that kept him out of Thursday’s win over WSU. The Buffaloes started sophomore forward Tory Miller in his place. … Scott isn’t the only Buffaloes player banged up. Junior forward Tre’Shaun Fletcher, who played for Lincoln High School, injured his ankle during practice Wednesday and played only six minutes versus the Cougars. He’s also considered questionable to play, according to the Boulder Daily Camera. … WSU took Colorado to two overtimes and would have won after the first overtime period if George King hadn’t swished a difficult 3-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game. Had he missed, Colorado would have lost just its second home game this season. … King, Fortune and Collier are capable of heating up from 3-point range, and the Buffaloes shoot 39.9 percent from beyond the arc as a team, the best mark in the Pac-12. They’re also the top free-throw shooting team at 73.2 percent. ... King, the Buffaloes’ second-leading scorer also leads the team in 3-point attempts with 115 in 25 games and shoots 47.0 percent from beyond the arc. … One area of concern for the Huskies: Colorado is the second-best offensive rebounding team in the conference, in terms of percentage, and the Huskies are the worst defensive rebounding team in the conference.