2014 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament

Presented by New York Life
March 12-15 | Watch on Pac-12 Networks

2014 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament first round: Colorado, USC comes down to the wire

Box Score & Stats | Bracket | Game Notes

LAS VEGAS – In the two previous matchups between Colorado and USC this season, the Buffs beat USC by a combined 30 points. So Wednesday’s nail-biter featuring five ties and seven lead changes in the second half was unexpected to say the least.

But Colorado’s prior success against USC, which won just two conference games in the regular season, means nothing to coach Tad Boyle.

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But Colorado’s prior success against USC, which won just two conference games in the regular season, means nothing to coach Tad Boyle.

“You throw the records out the window ‘cause you’re playing for your life,” he said after the game.

CU indeed played for its life in the first round of the 2014 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament at MGM Grand Garden Arena, squeaking past the Trojans, 59-56, to advance to Thursday’s quarterfinals and complete a season sweep of USC.

[Related video: Askia Booker talks about the Buffs' postseason potential]

Colorado shot 46 percent from the field, but hurt itself with 13 turnovers and 2-of-9 shooting from three. The contest came down to the final possession as USC’s Byron Wesley hurled a three-point attempt with two seconds left, but missed the mark. CU swarmed the rebound and held on as time ran out.

“I’m just happy they didn’t make the last shot of the game,” forward Josh Scott said. “It was an ugly game, and normally those kinds of games come down to the last possession, and I’m glad we came out on top. It was a total team effort tonight.”

[Related: 2014 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament TV info and how to watch online]

Like he did much of the season following Spencer Dinwiddie’s season-ending knee injury, guard Askia Booker did the heavy lifting with 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Josh Scott supported with 13 points and nine rebounds, and Xavier Johnson added 11 points and three boards. Wesley led USC with 23 points.

Booker’s leadership on the court was most apparent near the eight-minute mark in the second half. Immediately following a successful fadeaway jumper, he turned to the rumbling CU crowd and summoned them to get louder, mouthing “Let’s go, let’s go,” as he flapped his arms upward. On the next possession, he rebounded J.T. Terrell’s missed three-pointer and fed Xavier Johnson on a fast break for a thunderous dunk to tie the game at 49. The crowd did as Booker requested and stayed rowdy the rest of the game.

[Related video: Colorado's Tad Boyle on finding ways to win]

Next up for Colorado is fourth-seeded California Thursday afternoon. How to beat Cal after a performance like Wednesday’s, especially since CU fell to the Bears in overtime in their meeting just four days ago?

“We need more plays like I had tonight – those winning plays,” Booker said. “Cal is a very good team, especially with Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon. Those guys are just as capable of making winning plays as we are, so it’s going to come down to who’s mentally tough. Tonight we were mentally tough, and we’re going to have to carry that over to tomorrow to get the victory.”

Colorado’s quarterfinal meeting with Cal takes place Thursday at 2:30 p.m. PT on Pac-12 Networks.

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