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Buffaloes Fall At Home To No. 16 USC

Jan 20, 2022

 

BOULDER — Colorado came up just short in its bid for a win over a ranked team Thursday, as the Buffaloes dropped a 61-58 decision to No. 16 USC at the CU Events Center.

Tad Boyle's Buffs dropped to 12-5 overall and 4-3 in Pac-12 play while also falling to 0-4 against ranked teams this season. The Trojans, who ended a seven-game losing streak to Colorado, improved to 15-2, 5-2.

The Buffs led, 50-45, with 6:40 to play, but USC outscored Colorado 16-8 down the stretch for the win.

Jabari Walker led CU with 13 points and Evan Battey and Tristan da Silva each added 10.

Chevez Goodwin led USC with 14 points and had 18 rebounds.

The Buffs shot just 31 percent from the floor (16-for-51) and were outrebounded, 47-32. USC had 18 offensive rebounds for 15 second-chance points and Colorado committed 16 turnovers that led to 14 USC points.

The Buffs did hit 19 of their 25 free throw attempts as well as seven of their 15 3-point tries. Colorado also held USC to 37 percent shooting (23-for-62).

"I'll take the blame for this one, especially in terms of our offensive inefficiency," an obviously disappointed Boyle said. "I thought we had made strides offensively, but we did not move the ball and we did not move our bodies … But I will not take the blame for being outrebounded by 15. That is where toughness shows up and they were the tougher team tonight."

HOW IT HAPPENED: After a late CU rally in the first half sent the Buffs into intermission tied at 25-25, the Trojans jumped out to a six-point lead early in the second half. USC used a 7-0 run to take a 43-37 edge seven minutes in as the Buffs came up empty on five straight possessions.

But Colorado responded with a 10-0 run over the next six minutes to take a 47-43 lead with 8:18 to play. Nique Clifford, who had his first career start in place of injured Elijah Parquet, began the run with a thunderous dunk on a fast break, fueled by a Walker steal. Battey then added a bucket inside, Luke O'Brien drained a long 3-pointer and Clifford capped the drive with another long trey.

Minutes later, Colorado stretched its cushion to five, 50-45, on a da Silva 3-pointer with 6:40 remaining. That brought the crowd of 7,475 alive and the Buffs were in position to knock off a top-25 team.

But from that point on, the Buffs went cold while also committing some critical turnovers. The Trojans, meanwhile, methodically worked their way back in the game with five straight points to knot the score at 50-50 with five minutes to play.

"It's the understanding that it's not always going to come easy," Boyle said. "We always want to run and we want to run so we can get those dunks in transition and we can get the open threes in transition. We have to understand that in the half court, it's not going to come easy. You're going to have to work. It takes effort and energy."

Colorado did momentarily regain the lead on two K.J. Simpson free throws before the Trojans went ahead, 53-52, on a Boogie Ellis three-point play. The Buffs again tied the game on a Battey free throw with 2:43 to play before USC took the lead for good, 55-53, when USC's Goodwin corralled a loose ball under the bucket and slipped it home.

"Those 50-50 balls are toughness," Boyle said. "They wanted it more tonight. They made plays and we didn't."

Colorado did close the gap to one with two Walker free throws in the final minute before Goodwin hit one of two free throw tries for a 58-56 USC lead with 26 seconds left.

That gave the Buffs a chance to tie on their next possession, but CU missed a shot at the rim and the Trojans added another free throw. The Buffs then turned it over on their next possession and the Trojans added two more free throws with six seconds left to ice the win.

CU connected on just one of its final nine field goal tries.

"I'm not going to blame our players," Boyle said. "They fought, they battled. But we came up short. This one stings. We had an opportunity and we all have to look at ourselves in the mirror."

Colorado took an early lead and held the edge for the first nine minutes of the opening half as CU limited the Trojans to 3-for-13 shooting in the span.

But USC put together a 9-0 run to take a 17-11 lead with 7:49 to go in the half as Isaiah Mobley scored six straight points for USC with Colorado's Walker on the bench with two fouls.

Colorado, though, rallied over the final minutes of the half. CU used an 8-2 run in the final 3:17 to send the game into intermission tied at 25-25. Battey had four points in the surge and Simpson and Walker each hit a pair of free throws.

The Buffs were dominated on the boards in the first 20 minutes, 23-13, with the Trojans getting eight points off 11 offensive rebounds.

But Colorado made up the difference by hitting 11 of 15 free throw tries.

TURNING POINT: This one wasn't decided until the final minutes. But just after CU took a five-point lead, 50-45, with under seven minutes to play, the Trojans responded with five unanswered points to shift momentum back their way. Colorado did regain the lead one more time, but the Trojans had control over the final minutes.

WHAT IT MEANS: It's a tough way to learn a lesson, but CU's young players were taught a valuable one down the stretch Thursday by an experienced USC team. Good teams make critical plays in crunch time — and against good teams, every mistake is costly.

KEY STATISTICS: The Buffs shot just 31 percent from the floor (16-for-51) and were outrebounded, 47-32 … USC had 18 offensive rebounds for 15 second-chance points … Colorado committed 16 turnovers that led to 14 USC points.

NOTEWORTHY: Colorado's five-game win streak at home was snapped … The Buffaloes dropped to 16-8 all-time vs. Southern Cal and 8-3 all-time vs. Southern Cal in Boulder … The Buffaloes dropped to 8-2 this season when the game is within six points — two possessions — or less in the final four minutes … The loss snapped an eight-game home win streak in conference games … USC's 47 rebounds were a CU opponent season-high … Colorado's 16 field goals made and 31.4 percent shooting are season lows.

QUOTEWORTHY: "We came up short tonight, but we're going to come back. The challenge I have is get this team ready for Saturday night against UCLA. We've got to get better." — CU head coach Tad Boyle

NEXT UP: The Buffs wrap up their home series with the Los Angeles schools Saturday when they play host to No. 9 UCLA in a 7 p.m. game at the Events Center (Pac-12).

Contact: Neill.Woelk@Colorado.edu