For the third straight year, the Buffs struggled against an inferior opponent in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament. The result, however, remained the same as Colorado beat USC 59-56 on Wednesday. The Buffs were in danger of being upset as they trailed 49-45 with just under nine minutes to play in the second half, but went on a 13-1 run to take a 58-50 lead with 3:07 left. Askia Booker fueled the run refusing to let the Buffs fall victim to the Trojans and finished with 21 points. The win should lock Colorado in the field of 68 and improves their record to 22-10.
Things the Buffaloes did well:
There aren't many positives to take away from a three-point victory over the worst team in the conference. Fortunately, Askia Booker's best game in a while came at the perfect time. Booker had 21 points on 9-of-17 shooting in addition to his seven rebounds, four assists and one turnover.
Wesley Gordon and Xavier Johnson combined for 19 points and nine rebounds and each were 4-of-6 from the field. As a team, the Buffs shot 46 percent from the field and outrebounded the Trojans 38-28 and picked up 10 of those rebounds on offense.
Tre'Shaun Fletcher saw action for the first time since he injured his knee against Washington in January. He didn't play many minutes, but should provide a boost for Colorado's bench going forward.
Things the Buffaloes struggled with:
It is rare to see Josh Scott out of sync in the post, but that's what he was Wednesday. He had trouble possession after possession against Omar Oraby and managed to only score one point in the first half. He did finish the game with 13 points, but he needed 14 shots to do so. Scott continued to repeat his post moves time after time instead of operating patiently using both hands and was uncharacteristically inefficient.
The effort on defense was incredibly inconsistent. The Buffs couldn't string together stops and allowed USC a variety of easy layups in both halves as they shot 40 percent from the field. There was no rim protection and the Buffs carried that type of effort over to the offensive side of the ball. Colorado turned it over 13 times and had no rhythm. At the free-throw line, the Buffs were only 9-of-16.
The Buffs will play Cal on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. MT. The last time these two teams met, Cal prevailed in overtime, but if Askia Booker can play as well as he did against USC and Josh Scott can improve, the Buffs could end up in the semi-finals of the Pac-12 Tournament.