The No. 20-ranked University of Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team finished its Los Angeles road trip with a 78-57 win over the University of Southern California Trojans, splitting this current road swing with a win and loss.
“I think everyone showed up and did their part, especially the guards since they had about 12 defensive rebounds,” said junior guard/forward Tyler Bey. “We just played as a team tonight and got the win, that’s what we wanted to do.”
CU (17-5, 6-3 Pac-12) entered play coming off a disappointing loss against UCLA where the team struggled to compete in the rebounding and physicality departments, resulting in a four-point loss to the unranked Bruins. On that same night, USC found itself on the winning side of a match against Utah, surpassing the Buffaloes season record and putting themselves in first place in the conference.
“We let a bad one slip on Thursday,” said junior guard McKinley Wright IV. “We wish we could go back and start this road trip over, but it is what it is. Coach always tells us to move on to the next game and we showed that we can win on the road against a team at the top of the Pac-12.”
The Trojans burst out of the gate against CU, earning back to back three-point plays on their first two possessions and going up 6-0 early. Colorado nearly fell back to old habits, not taking care of the ball which resulted in a turnover on the Buffs’ first possession.
Both teams seemed to level out after the first five minutes of play, as USC came back down to earth after an energetic start and Colorado picked up the pace a little bit to tie the game five minutes into the contest.
Helping pump some energy into the team, Bey rose above the rest of the court and swatted a shot away, prompting the CU bench to hop to its feet with 16 minutes left in the half.
“The last ten minutes we played against UCLA, we needed to have that energy for 40 minutes tonight,” Wright IV said. “We did a good job of that, obviously.”
CU sophomore guard Eli Parquet drilled a three-pointer and put the Buffs up by two, 16-14, with 11:05 to play in the first half. Senior guard Shane Gatling added to the fun with a fade-away basket that extended the CU lead to four shortly thereafter.
A few moments later, sophomore forward Evan Battey put in a pair of buckets to extend the CU lead to 23-17 with a little over seven minutes left in the half, Colorado’s largest lead of the night.
As the first half wound to a close, Colorado’s most important stat would be the rebound numbers, mostly because that was the killer in Thursday’s game versus UCLA. With two minutes left in the half, CU led in rebounds 15-12, a huge improvement from the game against UCLA in which the Buffs were down 20-10 in rebounds at the half.
“We got work to do every game,” Bey said. “We learn from every game whether we lose or win, but we still have work to do, we have to learn from this game and beat Cal at home.”
Colorado’s offense also came alive in the last few minutes of the first half, pushing a lead to 12 with just a minute remaining in the half. USC would nail a 3-pointer in the last moments of the half to cut the Buffaloes halftime lead to nine, 33-24.
Leading the scoring effort for USC at the half would be freshman forward Onyeka Okongwu, owning six points on 2-of-5 shooting with six rebounds. Battey led the Buffs’ offense in the first, scoring seven points on 3-of-5 from the field along with hitting his only three-point attempt.
“I credit the players,” said Colorado head coach Tad Boyle. “They were dialed in, they were ready — this team has bounced back from losses pretty darn well this year, so I am really proud of them.”
The second half began with a monster jam by Bey, once again prompting the CU bench to rise to their feet. Along with the dunk, Bey owned two blocked shots and currently led Colorado is scoring with 11 points. With 15 minutes remaining in the game, CU held on to a 39-28 lead.
Wright IV made a great steal with 14 minutes left; he streaked up the sideline before dishing it to the waiting hands of junior guard D’Shawn Schwartz who leaped up and threw down a huge one-handed dunk, silencing the crowd and forcing USC to take a full timeout as they dropped deep behind the Buffaloes, 44-28.
From there, it was evident that Colorado had the game very much in control.
“We came together as a team,” Wright IV said. “If we guarded and rebounded (like we did tonight) we can play with anyone in the country.”
When all was said and done, Wright would turn in an impressive performance of 12 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
Colorado went on a 13-0 run over the span of seven minutes during the second half, helping push CU’s lead to 21 points, 55-34, with nine minutes remaining in the game.
The Buffs found themselves dominating late, both Parquet and Bey slammed down dunks with about five minutes to play, giving the few Buff’s fans in attendance a show and pushing the CU lead to nearly 30 points.
“I just try to prepare like a pro and think like a pro,” Parquet said on staying ready to go. “You have to play like an elite so I just try and stay ready and work on my game.”
Colorado had four different players score in the double digits, a strong team effort after crumbling to UCLA just a few days earlier. The Trojans started the game hot but the Buffs made sure to finish even hotter with a final score of 78-57, Buffaloes win.
Bey led the team with 16 points and seven rebounds, with Schwartz adding 12 points, as well. Senior guard Lucas Siewert had another solid game off the bench, contributing 12 points.
“For the Buffs, if we have this kind of energy, attentiveness, pace on offense, grit on defense and rebound the ball defensively the way we did tonight, when we did that and play with the grit and toughness this team’s got inside of them, I will take out chances every single night,” Boyle said.
The Buffaloes will return home to take on Cal on Thursday, Feb. 3 at 6 p.m. MST at the CU Events Center.
Contact CU Independent Sports Editor Max Troderman at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @mtroderman.
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