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Colorado sweeps USC, takes sole possession of Pac-12 lead

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Take that, Andy Enfield.

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NCAA Basketball: Colorado at Southern California Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In one of the sketchier games Colorado has played this year, the Buffaloes were able to outlast the USC Trojans, winning 70-66.

Your Buffaloes started out this game with arguably their worst ten-minute stretch of basketball this season. It was a tour de force of mistakes: USC was able to build a 20-6 lead because the Buffs had 9 turnovers, allowed 6 offensive rebounds and had zero offensive rhythm whatsoever. The Trojans are long and athletic, pack the paint and attack everything inside the arc; the Buffs were scattered, rattled, bamboozled, etc.

Soon enough, the Buffs remembered how to play basketball. They calmed down, realized that you can’t score if you don’t keep the ball, and actually got some defensive stops.

Shane Gatling got them started with a 3, Tyler Bey hit one himself, and soon enough the Buffs had gone on an 11-2 run to take back control of the game. What’s more, that run ignited a packed CU Events Center — a rowdy crowd that gave the refs hell after every call (they weren’t wrong).

Colorado closed out the half strong. They should have overtaken USC, but did still struggle with turnovers and offensive ineptitude. They settled for a 29-26 halftime deficit, which was just fine considering the Buffs more than survived that horrendous start to the game.

After that strong finish, there was no doubt the Buffs would come out of halftime hot. It was a team effort taking the lead, but it was Shane Gatling. His jumper gave CU the 36-34 lead, their first of the game, and he buried two more threes to get them rolling.

Once the Buffs had the lead, they fought like hell to pull away. Gatling stayed hot, Schwartz joined in, and Lucas Siewert hit two consecutive threes to give the Buffs a 56-44 lead with 10 minutes left to play. USC threw double-teams at Wright and Bey every time they drove, so the Buffs needed their role players to hit shots, and boy did they.

USC fought back, unlike last time. The Buffs looked more concerned with burning clock than scoring. Daniel Utomi and Jonah Mathews hit some tough shots to cut the lead down to 67-66 at its narrowest. Just when it was sketchiest, Kin hit a floater, Utomi traveled on the would-be game-tying three, and the Buffs iced it on free throws.

After this 70-66 lead, the Buffs improve to 21-6 and 10-4 in conference play. Also of note, Arizona State beat Oregon tonight, so the Buffs now have sole possession of the Pac-12 lead.

Colorado will have to take care of business against UCLA on Saturday (be there!) before playing Cal, Stanford and Utah on the road. If the Buffs win out, they win the conference guaranteed, but their one-game edge means they have room for error. Click here to find tickets for the Buffaloes final home game of an incredible season on the hardwood.