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Colorado stomps USC behind Horne, Wright

The Buffs sweep the Pac-12 leading Trojans

NCAA Basketball: Southern California at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

In what may have been the tightest 18-point win in program history, the Colorado Buffaloes have themselves a signature win and a season sweep of the Pac-12 leading USC Trojans.

The Buffs knew what they had to do in this game. They played with a fiery intensity from the jump and worked so hard on defense and rebounding. Even if this had been a Tad Ball classic rock fight, they would have been difficult to beat.

But in the opening half, after a cold road trip cost them two wins, the Buffs shot the lights out. With Jeriah Horne and D’Shawn Schwartz being aggressive and hitting contested shots, the Buffaloes jumped out to an early 19-8 lead.

As soon as USC adjusted, McKinley Wright got going. He was called for a technical foul (one of three B.S. techs called by CU adversary Tony Padilla), he appeared to be pissed off and played angry. He started cutting through the teeth of Andy Enfield’s vaunted defense for layups and kickouts. His aggressive play led CU to a 10-0 run to close out the half, giving them a 42-29 lead.

Right after the break, the Trojans worked hard to cut down the Buffs lead. But as soon as they were gaining momentum, Horne and Eli Parquet scored 8 quick points to take back control.

That turned out to be the theme of the second half: every time USC gained traction against a double-digit lead, the Buffs answered them immediately. Sometimes it was Horne hitting the shot, other times Maddox Daniels, but the Buffs hit every shot they needed to.

Desperate for a win, Enfield ramped up the pressure hoping for a CU collapse. They had some success with their full court press, and they finally broke through crashing the offensive glass, but it’s difficult to blow a 17-point lead with 8 minutes left. (Yes, CU did that against Utah, but that didn’t happen ❤.)

Colorado did their best to secure the ball and bleed the clock. They hit just enough shots and free throws to keep a 10-point distance before pulling away in the final minute. They have clearly learned from past mistakes and have gotten better at finishing these games.

This 80-62 win all but locks up an NCAA Tournament appearance for the Buffs. They’re now 18-7 on the season and 12-6 in the Pac-12. Next up is a home game against UCLA on Saturday, another chance for the Buffs to prove themselves the most dangerous team in the conference.

Quick notes:

Horne had a masterclass of a performance. He was lethal shooting the ball, hitting 6 of 9 (nice) from deep and most of those were contested looks. His old man game was there too, as he could slow the game down and get to his pull-up jumper. His 24 points (with 11 rebounds!) were not only a season-high for him, but they tied Wright for the most points any Buff has scored all year.

Wright had his own career night. His 14 assists were the most of his career and the second most in CU history (Jose Winston had 15 in 2001). Even though his shot wasn’t falling in the second half — because Evan Mobley stood firmly at the rim — he was excellent breaking the press and controlling the offense. He might not be the best player in the Pac-12, but he’s surely the most valuable.

Jabari Walker is finally back after missing the last three weeks with a leg injury. He was very excited to be playing, maybe a little too excited as he had four fouls in just 8 minutes on the court. He adds another element to this offense and can be a real difference maker come March.

Colorado has won their last six games against USC. Coaches Tad Boyle and Andy Enfield clearly do not like each other, so it must be frustrating for Enfield to drop all those duffle bags and still lose to the man who called him out for cheating.