Colorado led by as many as 18 points and forced 18 turnovers against USC to propel them to a 83-74 victory Sunday night at the Galen Center. The Trojans have the worst record in the Pac-12, but a win was still necessary and with it, the Buffs split their trip to Los Angeles. Askia Booker put up another unsurprising effective stat line with 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Xavier Johnson led the way for Colorado with 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting. The Buffs are now 19-7 overall and 8-5 in the Pac-12.
Things the Buffaloes did well:
They were efficient immediately against USC's zone using pump fakes, spreading the floor and taking their time on possessions. Colorado only committed one turnover in the first eight minutes. In the first half, they were 53 percent from the field and 5-of-10 from three. Jaron Hopkins was the star in the first 20 minutes scoring 10 points and making his first two threes. He added four assists and three steals and played intense active defense. The Buffs didn't fare too worse in the second half and finished the game shooting 50 percent from the field and 47 percent from three on 8-of-17 shooting.
Xavier Talton had a quiet 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting and picked up a career-high seven rebounds to go along with three assists. He had a beautiful spin move in transition for a layup which gave the Buffs a 62-48 lead with around nine minutes to go. It gave Colorado their biggest lead of the night at the time and sealed the game. Once again, all the starters stepped up aside from Dustin Thomas as four of them finished in double figures. Josh Scott had 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting and collected eight rebounds and three blocks. On defense, the Buffs limited the Trojans to an ineffective 3-of-16 from three and 36 percent shooting from the field.
Things the Buffaloes struggled with:
The final stretch was ugly. The lead went from 74-56 with three minutes to go to 78-68 with a minute remaining. The Buffs missed free throws and turned the ball over multiple times. Obviously, Colorado still got the victory, but Tad Boyle could not have been pleased with that finish. Colorado also turned it over 18 times in 40 minutes against a bad USC team. From the free throw line, the Buffs shot 70 percent and finished 19-of-27.
Wins on the road in conference play are never sure things, but this one was critical for Colorado. The win doesn't exactly help their tournament resume, but a loss would've likely moved them out of the projected field.
The Buffs take on Arizona St. on Wednesday night at the Coors Event Center. After losing to them a couple of weeks ago, Colorado will get a chance to split the season series. The Sun Devils are fighting to stay in the field of 68 as well and with a three game road trip following this week against the Arizona schools, all wins are going to be hard to get for Colorado.