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Colorado Buffaloes outlast USC Trojans in top-10 clash

Defense and rebounding powered the Buffs to this win.

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Saul Young/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Colorado Buffaloes have toppled yet another top-10 outfit — this time the #6 USC Trojans in a 63-59 slugfest.

USC entered this game with a chip on their shoulders following a blowout loss to Utah on Thursday. Just their second loss of the season — the other to UCLA, whom they defeated last weekend — the Trojans are an elite defensive team that is carried by freshman phenom JuJu Watkins. They slow the game down, play through Watkins and lock everything down on the other end.

Colorado struggled to get anything going in a difficult matchup. They couldn’t get any steals since USC wasn’t passing the ball. They couldn’t run after misses even with a +10 rebounding margin. And they couldn’t create any easy points in the half-court because USC packed the paint and dared them to shoot. The only thing the Buffs had going for them offensively was Quay Miller shooting the lights out. She scored 11 points in the first, then another 8 early in the third quarter to keep her team afloat.

This game was gross start to finish, but it got progressively uglier as the second half wore on. Colorado really struggled with turnovers, particularly live-ball giveaways that ended up in USC points. But they made up for that with their own defensive effort. Watkins scored 12 points in the first quarter, but ended up shooting just 4/15 from the field after her hot start. Credit to Kindyll Wetta for shutting her down and to Jaylyn Sherrod for drawing a charge that caused Watkins to foul out with six minutes left in the game.

Once Watkins was out of the game, the Buffs shifted into a 2-3 zone that killed the Trojans’ offense. USC tried to attack the zone, but Wetta and Frida Formann forced two steals that led into fast break layups for Sherrod. That got the CU Events Center rocking and the Buffs into their comfort zone. Colorado nearly broke away at the very end when Sherrod sliced through the lane and assisted Aaronette Vonleh for the go-ahead layup.

Colorado should have been able to run down the clock, but USC caused a scare. Kayla Padilla threw up a prayer that went in, Sherrod hit just one of two free throws, and then Forbes missed an open layup that would tied the game with a few seconds remaining. The Buffs were fortunate, but no one can take away this hard fought win.

The Buffs improve to 16-2 overall and 6-1 in Pac-12 play. They also picked up another resume-building win, as they have now defeated #6 USC, #8 Stanford, #10 LSU and #20 Utah. They could add another impressive win next week when they travel to Oregon to take on the Beavers (15-2) and Ducks (11-8).