In the final home game of the season, the Colorado Buffaloes played only half of basketball, but that one half was so overpowering that it was enough to not just defeat USC 78-67, but to give everyone legitimate hope for the Pac-12 Tournament and beyond.
Colorado seemed to be on their way to a fast start in front a packed home crowd, but that ended when Andy Enfield, a coward, called timeout after 89 seconds. During that break, Enfield must have reminded them who controls whose salary, and unless they want the FBI knocking of their door, they had better clamp down defensively. And so the Trojans took early control of this game on the defensive end.
With their significant size advantage, USC sat back in a zone and dared Colorado to find openings in their forest of arms. Colorado responded by having one of their worst offensive performances of the season, shooting around 30% for most of the half. It didn’t help either that USC was (1) hitting their open shots, which CU wasn’t, (2) grabbing offensive rebounds, which CU was as well, but it didn’t matter because they couldn’t finish their second chance opportunities, and (3) they took care of the ball, which CU definitely did not.
The only reason Colorado went into halftime trailing just 37-30 was because of Big Gravy himself, Evan Battey. The L.A. native has flourished as of late and he carried the Buffs’ offense on his broad shoulders. He had 12 points on 6-10 shooting, grabbed 4 offensive rebounds, and played stout defense against Nick Rakocevic. But as well as he was playing, it wasn’t enough without support from any of McKinley Wright, Tyler Bey or Shane Gatling.
Everything changed after halftime. Colorado knew exactly what USC was doing on defense and they adjusted. This meant Wright and Gatling slicing the zone to create shots in the in-between zone, and just when USC started moving their back line forward, Battey and Bey were lurking underneath to score inside. It was this well-rounded effort combined with urgent defense that powered Colorado to outscoring USC 38-20 in the half.
Once Colorado found their rhythm, it was over for USC. Even though CU still had to fight back from their deficit, and though USC was still technically in it until the 3-minute mark, there was no way the Buffs were going to lose once they figured it all out. When that other team sees Bey yamming in traffic, Kin hitting jumpers off the dribble, and Battey’s thicc ass in the post, it’s over. This team is seriously dangerous in the Pac-12 Tournament if they bring this intensity and focus to Las Vegas, even as a 5-seed.
A LOOK TO THE FUTURE
It was Senior Day, but the only player graduating is Namon Wright. Besides him, only Lucas Siewert and Gatling are juniors. We’ve known for a long time this team will be great when everyone is matured — that may be happening now. Battey was absurdly good all night as he controlled the block and scored whenever he wanted. Kin is looking better and more confident than he has all season. Bey has realized that if his switch is always on, he’s going to play in the NBA for a long time — he just needs to chill now because we can’t see him leave until at least next year. Gatling too was dynamic and looks to be CU’s best 2-guard since 2013 Askia Booker.
This is my last game covering from press row and I’m probably not going to back to North Africa for the next few years, so please, please, please enjoy the next few years as much as possible.