Following a disappointing loss to the UCLA Bruins, the Colorado Buffaloes (17-5, 6-3) came out with their hair on fire against the USC Trojans (17-5, 6-3). The Trojans were first place in the Pac-12 standings entering the game, but they were ran off the floor in their own building. The Buffs won, 78-59, on the strength of terrific team play on both sides of the ball.
Unlike Colorado’s lethargic play against UCLA, they came out with a jolt of energy against the Trojans. McKinley Wright was still running things, but the supporting cast had much more motion than the other night, and they played with considerably more defensive intensity. The only issue was turnovers due to some sloppy mistakes, although that affected both teams in the early stages.
After being neck-and-neck, the Buffs went on a promising 14-3 run to take a 26-17 lead with about seven minutes left in the half. Reserve wing Eli Parquet got the Buffs going with a three and excellent defense. Evan Battey followed up by hitting a three and making a post-up fadeaway. This run, powered by role players stepping up, was exactly what the Buffs have been missing away from home. All too often they rely on the stars to carry them, so a balanced team effort was encouraging to see.
Colorado’s offense wasn’t great, but it was good enough considering their excellent team defense, spearheaded as usual by the omnipresent Tyler Bey. The Buffs held USC to just 32% shooting from the field. It is worth noting that USC had a lot of shots go in-and-out, so maybe this just wasn’t their night; regardless, CU did so well boxing out that USC abandoned offensive rebounds. That all-around game is how the Buffs took a 33-24 lead at halftime, low-scoring but exactly what Tad Boyle hoped for on the road.
The second half devolved into a gritty, physical game. No one could hit anything, on either team. Poor Evan Battey got arm-checked in the throat, pulled Onyeka Okongwu down to the ground with and both were called for fouls. That symbolized these early minutes and I doubt you need an explanation why.
With both teams hitting the rim and each other, no one scored for a three full minutes. That was until Dallas Walton hit a three, which, hell yeah Dallas. After that shot, Schwartz scored three straight basket to extend CU’s lead to 48-28 with 13 minutes left in the game. Just like that, the Buffs were stomping on their rivals and it was because of role players stepping up.
As the flood-gates opened for the Buffs, the Trojans remained locked down. I thought regression would help USC in the second half and those in-and-outs would fall for them, but their shooting after halftime was putrid. Credit CU for pressuring them and causing turnovers. It’s also freaky that they didn’t score a point for 8 minutes of game-time (!!!).
Once Lucas Siewert and Tyler Bey hit back-to-back threes, this one was over and finished with 10 minutes left to play. The Buffs kept on building the lead as they continued to play with utmost urgency even with the game all but over. It was as if they lost a disappointed game to an inferior opponent, Tad Boyle challenged them to prove themselves, then everything came together as they absolutely pantsed their opponent.
The most fun part of tonight was CU running up the score and rubbing it in. Boyle hates Andy Enfield with his whole heart, these Buffs have histories with some of the Trojans, and so on. A rivalry looks like Bey reserve dunking the ball up 27 points, taunting the nearest opponent and getting a technical foul for it. The starters played until the final buzzer— the only thing better would have been Boyle taking a timeout with a minute left, just to rub it in, as Enfield did to Colorado a couple years ago.
This kind of win is everything the Buffs needed. It’s a statement win against a Pac-12 title contender, an emphatic blowout on the road, a Tier-A win for the tournament resume, and it shifts momentum back after that UCLA loss. This should continue next week, when Colorado hosts California on Thursday and Stanford on Saturday.