SEATTLE - The Colorado Buffaloes dug themselves a hole with frigid shooting here Wednesday night and left Alaska Airlines Arena in a deeper Pac-12 Conference hole.
But despite their 64-54 loss to streaking Washington, which won for the tenth time in 12 games, Buffs coach Tad Boyle and his players believe positive steps were taken - particularly on defense.
Boyle said his team's defense "was good enough to win . . . our guys played great (defense). We played with pride and some toughness. We lost to a good basketball team."
The Huskies, playing their first home game since Dec. 22, remained unbeaten (4-0) in conference play and went to 12-5 overall while the Buffs slipped to 1-4, 11-6.
If CU's 'D' was exemplary, its 'O' was of the OMG variety. Credit the Huskies for some of that misfiring; they've now held four Pac-12 teams to under 40 percent from the field.
The Buffs shot a season-low 29.2 percent in the first half and finished at 36.2 percent (21-for-58) for the game - the team's second-lowest mark this season. CU also tied a season low in assists with six and made only one of 10 three-point attempts.
But the Buffs held the Huskies to 33.9 percent (20-for-59) from the field and outrebounded them by one (38-37). It wasn't an aesthetically pleasing night for either team, but UW coach Lorenzo Romar didn't care.
Asked about "winning ugly," Romar said, "You can color it any want to color it. I just know that when you go out and you play two games in a row and you have single digit turnovers (UW had 9, CU 12), you hold four teams to under 40 percent from the field, you outrebound three out of the four, you're beginning to do things right. The only 'ugly' thing, if you want to call it that, is that we haven't been making shots. Two out of the last four games we haven't made shots. Other than that, I think we're doing everything else OK."
Boyle said the Huskies' 15 offensive rebounds "really killed us in the second half. We had some stops and couldn't finish the possession with getting the rebound. That hurt us. And then we put them on the foul line in the second half. For some reason we don't get to the foul line on the road; I don't know why."
Sophomore Spencer Dinwiddie, who led CU with 15 points, said the Buffs played with more overall intensity than in previous conference losses to Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA.
"For sure," Dinwiddie said. "That's one thing we talked about. We talked our positives; we finally started playing with our principles - we rebounded the ball decently. There were a couple of possessions where they got three or four offensive rebounds. If we cut that out and they don't make a run, the game's different."
The only other CU player in double figures was junior Andre Roberson with 10 points, marking the first time this season only two Buffs reached double digits. Roberson also had 11 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season and the 32nd of his career.
Roberson said the Buffs "stepped it up big time on the defensive end . . . we just didn't get the rebounds when it mattered and we didn't make the tough stops. Our offense has to get better; our motion is terrible right now. That's one thing we have to improve on big time. Just executing on the offense end is a main thing. That's why we struggled with this team."
Sophomore guard Askia Booker fouled out with 34.4 seconds to play after scoring nine points, while freshman forwards Xavier Johnson and Josh Scott had nine and eight, respectively. Scott got all of his points in the second half.
The Huskies' C.J. Wilcox, the conference's leading scorer (21.3 ppg), finished with 25, while teammate Scott Suggs added 13. UW had no other double-figure scorers, but Desmond Simmons (12) and Aziz N'Diaye (11) accounted for 23 rebounds.
CU scored a season-low 20 points in the first half and trailed by eight at intermission. The Huskies opened 10-point leads three times in the game's final 8 minutes, an 11-point advantage in the last 3 minutes, and never allowed their visitors closer than seven points during that span.
Trailing 28-20 at intermission, the Buffs might have gone to their locker room thankful for that deficit. When they caught the Huskies at 17-17 on a layup by Johnson - he started against in place of Sabatino Chen - they appeared to have corrected their early problems.
CU committed four of its seven first-half turnovers - a high for a half in league play - in the game's first 6 minutes and fell behind by seven points. Then the Buffs strung together an 8-2 run - their most productive offensive stretch of the opening half - and pulled even.
But things went south from there.
After Johnson's layup produced the tie at 17 with 8:56 left before the break, CU scored only three more points to finish with its lowest first-half total of the season.
The Buffs opened the second half with three points from Roberson and pulled to within 28-23. But the Huskies trumped that with a four-point play from Scott Suggs to take their largest lead of the night - 32-23 - to that point. The nine-point advantage became 10 (37-27) on a trey by Wilcox.
But taking advantage of the 7-foot N'Diaye taking a rest, the 6-10 Scott hit back-to-back baskets to draw the Buffs to within five (39-34) with just over 11 minutes to play.
CU's threat ended there. A 5-0 run restored U-Dub's 10-point lead (48-38), leaving the Buffs just over 7 minutes to retaliate. Boyle called a timeout at the 7:12 mark, but the closest his team could get was 52-45 on a three-point play by Dinwiddie with 3:52 to play.
"With our defense tonight and our pride, I'm proud of our guys for the way they hung in there," Boyle said. "It got away from us at the end there and you look at a 10-point loss on the road and we couldn't shrink the lead because we couldn't score. But it wasn't because of our defense."
The Buffs' road trip continues with a Saturday game (8 p.m. MST) at Washington State. The team will fly via charter on Thursday morning from Seattle to Spokane, have Thursday and Friday practices at Gonzaga, then fly to Pullman on Saturday morning.