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Buffs Host Trojans In Crucial Pac-12 Battle

Feb 25, 2021
D'Shawn Schwartz had 13-point, 10-rebound double-double in CU's win over USC in December.

CU Game Notes

BOULDER — In order to be the best, you have to beat the best. 

Tad Boyle's Colorado Buffaloes (17-7 overall, 11-6 Pac-12) will have a chance to beat the team with the best record in the Pac-12 on Thursday when they host the 19th-ranked USC Trojans (19-4, 13-3) in a 7 p.m. (MT) matchup at the CU Events Center (ESPN2).

Colorado will be facing a Trojan team that has been red hot, winning eight of its last nine and 14 of its last 16 games, including a dominating 72-58 win over Oregon on Monday night. 

It seems like an eternity since the Buffaloes defeated the Trojans in a decisive 72-62 road win on Dec. 31, and Boyle and the Buffaloes know USC is a very different team now.

"We had great energy and effort that night," Boyle said. "They have some young guys and some new guys to our conference that maybe didn't know what to expect and we punched them in the mouth a little bit and they didn't quite react. But since then the improvement that USC has made has been dramatic."

Indeed USC has improved. The Trojans lead the conference with a +11.6 scoring margin and have been shooting lights out from 3-point range the past three games, shooting 45.9 percent (28-for-61). 

The Trojans have also shown they are a strong road team with a 6-1 record in Pac-12 road games. 

Another one of their strengths is defense. They are one of the best defensive teams in the conference, holding their opponents to just 64.1 points per game, which is second in the Pac-12. 

"They've got rim protection, athleticism, length, and a couple guys that really take pride in it," Boyle said. "You put all that together and they've got a pretty good defensive team. So we're gonna have to really work, execute, be patient, and be aggressive."

A big part of their defensive success is 7-foot freshman standout Evan Mobley, who is leading the conference in blocks with three per game. Mobley is averaging 16.8 points per game and the Buffs will have their hands full trying to contain him down low. He also leads the conference in field goal percentage (.603) as well as rebounding (8.7).

Mobley is not the only player the Buffs will have to worry about containing. Senior Tahj Eaddy is also averaging double figures in scoring (14.3) and is someone that drilled four 3-pointers and scored 16 points in the first matchup between the two teams.

Rebounding was key in the Buffaloes December win over USC, when they outrebounded the Trojans 38-35. USC is currently the best rebounding team in the conference, averaging 40.2 per game. If the Buffs can win the rebound battle again and limit USC's second-chance opportunities, they will put themselves in a good position. 

Something that won't put the Buffs in a good position are turnovers, which is something they have struggled with as of late, turning the ball over a total of 33 times in their games against the Oregon schools last week.  

"Make simple basketball plays," Boyle said. "If we do that our turnover number will go down. Make easy simple plays and things are going to be fine."

PAC-12 PLAYER OF YEAR CANDIDATES: With the season winding down, the Pac-12 Player of the Year discussion is heating up. Two candidates for the award will be on display in this matchup Thursday with Colorado's McKinley Wright IV and USC's Evan Mobley. 

THE SERIES: Colorado leads the all-time series 14-7 and has won the past five matchups. The Buffs also hold a 7-2 edge in Boulder. 

NATIONAL RANKINGS: A win over USC will certainly strengthen the Buffs' NCAA tournament resume. Colorado is ranked No. 24 in the NET rankings and USC is the only Pac-12 team ranked higher at 14. In the rankings, Colorado is sitting at 21 while USC is at 12. 

BROADCAST: The game will be televised on ESPN2 with Roxy Berstein and Adrian Branch. KOA 850 AM and 94.1 FM will carry the radio broadcast with Mark Johnson and Scott Wilke. 

UP NEXT: The Buffs will host UCLA on Saturday at 8 p.m. (MT, ESPN2 or ESPNU) before finishing the regular season at home Arizona State on March 4. Game time is TBD.