LAS VEGAS – After Washington’s Cole Bajema somehow converted the layup of the lifetime before crashing to the court that pulled the Huskies even with 1 minute, 25 seconds left on Wednesday, Colorado’s Luke O’Brien hit a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession.
On UW’s next trip, Keyon Menifield tried to whip a pass along the baseline to Bajema in the corner that was intercepted. The Buffaloes’ Julian Hammond III hit a midrange jumper that essentially decided the game.
Washington never got anything going on three of its last four offensive possessions and fell 74-68 in the first round of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament.
Keion Brooks Jr. and Bajema each finished with 16 points for the Huskies and Koren Johnson tallied a career-high tying 15.
Washington has trailed at halftime in 14 games. Another slow start plagued the Huskies, who were down 21-10 with 4:10 remaining in the first half.
Braxton Meah capped the first-half scoring with a dunk that cut UW’s deficit to 28-20.
After converting 1 of 10 3-pointers in the first half, the Huskies connected on four of their first six attempts in the second half, including Johnson’s long-range shot that cut their deficit to 44-43.
Minutes later, Johnson gave UW its first lead – 47-46 – with a fastbreak layup in traffic with 9:48 left. His layup also put the Huskies ahead 49-48 at the 9:08 mark.
Soon after, Colorado regained the lead and went up 60-55, which set up a thrilling end.
Considering Washington was No. 121 in the NET and 104th in the KenPom rankings before Wednesday, the Huskies will not be extended a berth to the National Invitation Tournament and their season ended at 16-16.
The start of the offseason sparks a litany of questions about who’s returning next season starting with Hopkins, whose job security has drawn rampant speculation from fans and media.
The sixth-year UW coach is 101-91 since arriving in 2017 and has two years and $6.3 million remaining on his contract.
In terms of the roster, the Huskies hope to retain Menifield, Johnson, Meah and Franck Kepnang, who missed most of the year due to a knee injury.
It’s uncertain if Brooks, a senior forward and UW’s leading scorer, will return for a fifth year. The same is true for senior guards Noah Williams and PJ Fuller II, who missed the past few weeks and did not travel to Las Vegas.
Washington’s incoming class includes four-star prospect Wesley Yates III, a 6-5 guard ranked 48th nationally on ESPN’s top 100 list.