BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — The Colorado Buffaloes had mixed feelings when they saw Washington’s fantastic freshman Markelle Fultz in sweats on the sideline during warm-ups Thursday night.
“I was bummed,” said Derrick White, who scored 16 points in Colorado’s 81-66 victory over the Fultz-less Huskies. “I wanted to go against him. … But we couldn’t dwell on it too much.”
It wasn’t clear if the Buffaloes saw Washington’s Malik Dime walk up to a student heckler and slap him in the face after the halftime buzzer. Washington coaches had to restrain the senior from Dakar, Senegal, who was sitting out his ninth consecutive game with a broken right finger.
Coach Lorenzo Romar said he’s aware of the fracas.
“I don’t know anything about the details,” Romar said. “I will look into it.”
Regarding Fultz’s knee, Romar said the soreness and swelling had been bothering the young player for a while.
“This week he wasn’t able to practice,” Romar said. “We sat him out. He was feeling a little better, but we decided to keep him out. It’s kind of day to day.”
Fultz scored a season-high 37 points in an 85-83 overtime win over Colorado on Jan. 18.
When one of his assistants ran to tell him that Fultz, projected as a potential top pick in this year’s NBA draft, was sitting this one out, Colorado coach Tad Boyle raced to update his scouting report and caution his players not to overlook the rest of Washington’s roster.
“You hate to see a good player like that not play because he’s special,” Boyle said after his 200th career victory. “However, it did not break my heart.”
Fultz’s 23.2-point average leads all freshmen and he’s the only player in the NCAA averaging 20 points, six assists and six rebounds.
“It’s difficult when it’s someone you kind of build your whole offense around and he’s out,” Romar said. “He does so much for our team, obviously. I did not sense our team was having a pity party … We know that when he’s not in there we’re a different basketball team.”
Without him, the Huskies (9-15, 2-10) had no answers for Colorado’s balanced scoring attack — six Buffs scored in double figures led by George King’s 21 points to go with 12 rebounds.
“We’ve said all year long the strength of our team is the balance and the depth,” White said.
David Crisp led the Huskies with 17 points.
The Buffalos (14-11, 4-8 Pac-12) won for the fourth time in five games despite behind short-handed themselves. Boyle said suspended senior starters Wesley Gordon and Xavier Johnson will be back Sunday against Washington State. They missed their second consecutive game for unspecified violations of team rules. Deleon Brown is sidelined with a concussion.
Washington: The Huskies have to hope Fultz’s injury is a blip and not a lingering issue. Their only hope of reaching the postseason is a run behind their player who’s been producing more than half of their points in the second half.
Colorado: The Buffaloes are 1-1 since Gordon and Johnson were suspended. Their return could go a long way toward the Buffs making a successful stretch run.
The Huskies visit Utah on Saturday. They lost 94-72 to the Utes last month in Seattle.
The Buffaloes host Washington State on Sunday night before their final road trip to Oregon.