It had a promising start, but the Colorado Buffaloes (10-7) fell on the road to the USC Trojans (12-6) by a score of 70-58.
The first half was characterized by the tension between USC trying to take over and Colorado fighting back. The veteran Trojans are as lengthy as they are talented, and that combination disrupted the Colorado offense from the get-go. The Buffs had 13 turnovers in the first half that led to 16 USC points. Multiple times in the first half, sloppy play from the Buffs and hot shooting from the Trojans made this is game feel like it could bust open at any time.
Unlike too many Colorado teams over the years, these Buffs refuse to go down quietly. Just when it looked like they might roll over and die, someone was there to pick up the Buffs. More often than not, that man was George King. He was superb in the first half as he had a game-high 15 points on 3-6 shooting from deep. Namon Wright and Tyler Bey were also important two-way contributors. Thanks to those efforts, Colorado was in a good spot as they went into halftime down only 39-34.
Unfortunately in the second half, the Buffs’ turnover woes persisted and they didn’t shoot well enough to overcome those struggles. USC used a 2-3 zone defense in the first half, but it was no big deal because the Buffs shot over 50% from deep and were able to work the ball inside. In the second half, though, those shots stopped falling and CU had no other answers.
Just about everyone on the Buffs, save for King, were swallowed by the zone, especially lead guards McKinley Wright and Dom Collier. Those who weren’t immediately swallowed by the zone were then eaten alive by USC center Chimezie Metu. The gargantuan center’s terrific play meant their perimeter players knew they could press and gamble for steals because he would erase any mistake. You would hope Colorado would have figured out a way to work around that, but it just wasn’t in the cards for tonight.
The Buffs will go again on Saturday (8:30 p.m.) against the UCLA Bruins (12-4). UCLA may not be as talented as USC, but they have had a much better season to date. Led by Aaron Holday and the apparent UCLA lifer Thomas Welsh, the Bruins have a balanced offense that the Buffs will have to play perfect defense to stop. Hopefully they will be able to play up to the challenge and get an upset at the Pauley Pavilion.
Oh, and before I forget, Tad Boyle will be coaching a Sweet Sixteen squad when Andy Enfield has to pull a Pete Carroll to avoid NCAA sanctions.