The CU Buffs will be advancing to the second round of the Pac-12 Tournament to face the No. 1 seed UCLA Bruins on Thursday, as they narrowly held onto control of the game, and emerged victorious over the Washington Huskies by the skin of their teeth.

Most frustrating was the fact that the Colorado Buffaloes never should’ve been forced to sweat this game out in the first place.

During a seven-and-a-half-minute stretch that saw Washington connect on just one field goal and tally just two points, Colorado’s own offensive struggles prevented them from building an insurmountable gap between the two squads.

Tad Boyle’s unit missed multiple wide-open three-point shots, suffered through a handful of blood-boiling turnovers and made head-scratching decisions that killed possessions, and as a result, left a bushel of points on the floor.

Some of that had to do with the fact that Tristan Da Silva (who tallied nine first-half points on 4-for-5 shooting) was off the floor for a fair portion of that UW drought, and even though he was hobbled by his sprained ankle, Da Silva functioned as CU’s offensive motor for much of the contest.

He punctuated the Colorado run by rebounding his own miss off a sweet little one-legged, Sombor-esque floater, and tossing it out to Gabbidon for the open three.

Had the CU Buffs been performing up to their standard, and had the luxury of leaning on a fully healthy version of Da Silva, they would have rattled off a 20-2 run, and the UW Huskies would have struggled to ever make the game a contest, but that didn’t happen. Instead, the Buffaloes generated just 12 points of their own during the Huskies’ drought, and as UW’s offense stirred back to life, the purple and gold found themselves down just 26-12.

Not an enviable position, but also far from certain doom.

Underlining that point was the lightning-quick 8-2 run that the Huskies’ offense unfurled at the Buffaloes’ expense, undoing 60% of the work created by Colorado’s seven-plus minute 12-2 run, in just three minutes.

Nique Clifford, Julian Hammond, and Luke O’Brien missed open shots, while Braxton Meah came alive for Washington, and the half ended with the CU Buffs stumbling, up just 28-20.

Although Colorado’s defense was good enough to hold Washington to just 27% shooting from the field, and 10% shooting from three, it was kinda nullified by the fact CU was shooting just 36% and 25%, respectively.

Mike Hopkins’ crew carried their end-of-half momentum into the second half, and perpetuated the Buffaloes’ stupor. On their first two defensive possessions, the Huskies generated stops, only to sprint down the floor, and lace a crisp three.

Suddenly, Tad Boyle’s squad was up just 28-26, after being up 26-12 a mere five in-game minutes earlier.

From that point on, spectators were treated to the type of tight, slobber-knocking postseason brawl one expects from a matchup between the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds.

Both teams feverishly refused to allow their rival to construct a run, and as a result, the two middleweights exchanged crackling blows in what quickly became an epic bout.

On consecutive possessions, Da Silva drove down the floor and dished it to Lawson Lovering, who flushed a pair of easy two’s, returning the Colorado lead to six, at 32-26.

A few minutes later, Washington’s Keion Brooks baited CU into giving up an and-one opportunity, which sliced their lead in half.

The two sides continued to jockey back and forth, and as the battle heated up, Lovering appeared to throw an elbow at a Husky defender and was assessed with a flagrant foul 1. That also helped Washington reel Colorado in, and soon after, with 10 minutes left in regulation, the Huskies secured their first lead of the game, at 46-47.

Unfortunately for any purple-and-gold-draped fans, as soon as UW gained control of the game, they lost it. The teams quickly exchanged the lead a few times on the next possessions, resulting in the CU Buffs regaining a 50-49 lead, and from that point on, Tad Boyle’s team never looked back.

Ethan Wright finished over the seven-foot-tall Meah and Nique Clifford sunk his first jumper of the game, to get Colorado’s lead back up to multiple possessions.

Lovering was then tied up with Meah on a defensive possession for CU, and while it looked, at first, like Boulder’s big man was about to be ejected from the game for receiving his second technical, he instead got to shoot free throws and cement the Buffs’ lead.

Washington once again managed to reel Colorado back in though, and with 76 seconds left in the game, tied the score at 66.

With Boyle knowing every Washington defender would be keyed in on Da Silva, he had Da Silva drive under the hoop, and kick it out to Wright, who swung it to O’Brien, who then drained what proved to be the game-winning three-pointer.

The Huskies came up empty on their next possession, and Julian Hammond put on a gorgeous display of his handles and shooting ability, ultimately delivering the dagger on a sweet turnaround jumper.

UW tried to play the foul game, to no avail, and the CU Buffs came away with the 74-68 win, and will be set to play UCLA at 1 p.m. MT on Thursday.

If Colorado wants to pull off the major upset, as they came so close to doing just two weeks ago in Boulder, they’ll need another masterful performance from Da Silva, as well as sustained greatness from Julian Hammond and Luke O’Brien.

Hammond has been amazing as the team’s primary ball-handler since filling in for K.J. Simpson. Since entering that role, Hammond has averaged 18 points, three rebounds, 3.5 assists, three steals, and just one measly turnover, per game. He’s managed to replace Simpson’s scoring and his playmaking, while not creating more mistakes (which CU cannot afford, considering how turnover prone they’ve already been).

He was easily the player of the game vs. the Huskies.