Facing a ranked opponent for the first time in over a month, the University of Colorado men’s basketball team appeared unphased on Thursday. Every bit of the game, even warmups, were anything but lackadaisical against the No. 19 USC Trojans. Colorado knew the importance of a victory as the postseason looms as they pulled off an impressive 80-62 win when it was needed most.
Opening the final homestand of his career at CU, senior guard McKinley Wright IV had an all-around strong performance. He ended the night with a career-high 14 assists to go with 15 points, four rebounds and three steals.
In arguably the most important game of the season thus far, the Buffs hosted a slew of friends and family in the CU Events Center. With the energy of the small crowd, CU showcased its dominance early, forcing multiple personal fouls in just the first few minutes of the game. The Trojans were clearly feeling the pressure as CU took a 19-8 lead halfway through the first half.
Senior grad transfer forward Jeriah Horne had one of his best games in the black and gold. Stepping up in the most important moments, Horne tied his season-high with 24 points while adding 11 rebounds. He shot 9-for-12 from the field and 6-of-9 from three.
“When Jeriah gets it going he’s a rhythm shooter,” said head coach Tad Boyle. “He knows how to get his shots off. He’s got a quick release. They knew he’s a three-point shooter.”
After some sloppy defense and multiple foul calls, including a questionable technical call on Wright, the Trojans cut the lead to within three. For the last 10 minutes of the half, the Buffs caught fire from deep and built a significant 42-29 lead heading into the break. The Buffs have allowed opponents to battle their way back in the past, but CU was able to maintain its lead throughout.
Freshman forward Jabari Walker returned for the first time in six games after a three week break due to a foot injury, his energy was apparent. His time on the court was limited but he contributed six points and two rebounds in eight minutes.
“We’ve told Jabari that he has to be honest with us as coaches and the trainer with how his foot is feeling because if there is pain there, we have to kind of limit and back off a little bit,” Boyle said. “It’s great to have him back. He was a big part of this team when he went down and he’s still a big part of it.”
A full team effort was needed to pull off the win against the now-second place team in the Pac-12. Colorado shot a staggering 54.5% from three alongside a 47.4% overall from the field. Their nation-leading 82.7% from the free throw line was on display throughout the game, as the team shot 14-for-15 to boost its season mark to 83.1%.
“I see how guys shoot the ball and translated it to the game tonight, and we really shared it,” Boyle said. “I thought we had some really good individual efforts even though it was a team victory.”
The Buffs are back on the court Saturday at 8 p.m. MST at the CU Events Center against UCLA.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Logan Standard at email@example.com.
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