One senior, six freshmen, no excuses.

Tad Boyle understands it can be difficult for a young team to play with consistency.

However, Colorado's head coach admits he isn't handling the Buffs' recent growing pains well.

"I'm not doing a very good job of being patient. It's not in my nature," Boyle said after Wednesday's practice. "I don't want to be patient with it. I want this team to continue to improve, and I think we have a special group that can do some things. But they have to understand it's not going to happen just by showing up, putting on a Colorado uniform and saying, 'OK, we've turned the corner.'

"We haven't turned the corner. We have a lot of work to do with this program."

That was evident as the Buffs (10-4, 0-2) -- who are 4-4 since climbing to No. 19 in the national polls -- opened Pac-12 play with losses at No. 3 Arizona and Arizona State.

CU hosts USC tonight at the Coors Events Center (8 p.m., ESPNU).

"There's a fine line between winning and losing. I think if you talk to (Arizona coach) Sean Miller, Sean's a pretty level-headed guy and he'd be the first one to admit that they're pretty fortunate to be 14-0," Boyle said. "They are a few possessions away from being 11-3 or 10-4 like we are. It's not a huge gap sometimes between 10-4 or 14-0 or in USC's case 6-9."

The Trojans (6-9, 1-1) defeated Dayton, a team CU also beat at the Charleston Classic, to end a tough non-conference slate before splitting with Stanford (won 71-69) and Cal (lost 72-64).

Point guard Jio Fontan (5.3 apg), forward Eric Wise (11.7 ppg) and 7-footer Dewayne Dedmon (7.1 rpg) lead an athletic roster.

USC is last in the Pac-12 in scoring (63.3 ppg) but is holding opponents to 64.3 points per game.

The Buffs, who led Arizona by 17 points and Arizona State by 13 points in the first half, believe they can beat anyone in the conference if they put a 40-minute game together.

"I think it starts with the veterans. We have to be better leaders," said sophomore guard Askia Booker. "I don't think I've been a great leader being vocal to the guys and telling them how it's going to be."

Booker, Spencer Dinwiddie, Andre Roberson and Sabatino Chen planned to give their teammates an informal pep talk before this home stand.

Boyle met with all of the players this week and challenged true freshmen Xavier Johnson, Eli Stalzer and Xavier Talton not to settle for being a part of the bench.

"The key with (Johnson) is he wants more. That's what I want," Boyle said. "I want Eli Stalzer, I want Xavier Talton, I want them to want more. I want them to accept their role, but I don't want them to be satisfied with their role."

Johnson played his best game of the season in his first start at Arizona. Chen scored 15 points off the bench and had a game-winning shot at the end of regulation taken away by the officials.

Against Arizona State they struggled with Chen starting and Johnson coming off the bench. Boyle said he has "six starters" and matchups will determine which player is on the court for the opening tip.

"Xavier is dialed in," Boyle said of Johnson. "These California guys like playing against the L.A. schools."

Booker, Dinwiddie, Johnson and Stalzer are all from Los Angeles.

"I don't know if I have something to prove, but I want to make them regret that they didn't recruit me," Booker said of the Trojans. "At the same time, I'm happy where I'm at and for the opportunity coach Boyle has given me. I still want to make them think in the back of their heads that they wish they would have recruited us."

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CU men's hoops preview

TONIGHT: The Colorado Buffaloes (10-4, 0-2) host the USC Trojans (6-9, 1-1) at 8 p.m. at the Coors Events Center.

BROADCAST: Television on ESPNU with Roxy Bernstein (play-by-play) and Miles Simon (analyst). Radio on KOA (AM 850) with Mark Johnson (play-by-play) and Chad Brown (analyst). Follow on Twitter: @RyanThorburn.

CU STORYLINES: The Buffs are coming off back-to-back losses at No. 3 Arizona and Arizona State. ... CU is 6-3 in games decided by less than 10 points. ... The Buffs are looking to improve to 7-0 at home this season and 39-4 in Boulder under Tad Boyle. ... Askia Booker, Spencer Dinwiddie, Xavier Johnson and Eli Stalzer are all from Los Angeles. ... CU led Arizona 21-7 and Arizona State 20-7 midway through the first half before squandering those leads. ... The Buffs were No. 6 in the NCAA's first official RPI rankings released this week.

USC STORYLINES: The Trojans defeated Stanford 71-69 and lost to Cal 72-64 at home to begin conference play. ... Eric Wise (11.7 ppg) leads the team in scoring and Dewayne Dedmon (7.1 rpg), who suffered a season-ending knee injury against CU last season, is USC's leading rebounder. ... The Trojans are 0-3 on the road this season and have a 13-game road losing streak dating back to Nov. 30, 2011. ... USC is 3-3 in its last six games, holding opponents to 58.8 points per game over that span.

KEY STAT: USC has made 27 more field goals than its opponents this season, yet has been outscored by 15 points. The Trojans' opponents have made 98 3-pointers to USC's 68 and have made 39 more free throws.

COACHES: Tad Boyle is 58-30 in his third season at CU. Kevin O'Neill is 47-64 in his fourth season at USC.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Colorado -- F Andre Roberson, 6-7, So., 11.4 ppg, 12.1 rpg; F Josh Scott, 6-10, Fr., 13.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg; G Spencer Dinwiddie, 6-6, So., 14.5 ppg, 2.8 apg; G Askia Booker, 6-1, So., 14.9 ppg, 2.3 apg; G Sabatino Chen, 6-4, Sr., 4.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg. USC -- F Dewayne Dedmon, 7-0, Jr., 6.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg; F Aaron Fuller, 6-6, Sr., 3.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg; F Eric Wise, 6-6, Sr., 11.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg; G Jio Fontan, 6-0, Sr., 8.9 ppg, 5.3 apg; G Byron Wesley, 6-5, So., 8.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg.

SERIES: Tied 3-3. CU won last year's game 74-50 in Los Angeles. This is USC's first visit to Boulder since losing to the Buffs 74-54 on Dec. 2, 1968.

UP NEXT: The Buffs host UCLA on Saturday at the Coors Events Center (noon, Pac-12 Network).