Fast break

What went right: CU's offense was solid once again, and they had five players score in double figures for just the fourth time this season.

What went wrong: Transition defense gave USC too many points, and the Buffs were beaten on the boards, 40-34.

Star of the game: Xavier Talton. The sophomore had arguably the best game of his career, with 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists and no turnovers in 32 minutes.

What's next?: The Buffs will host Arizona State on Wednesday at 9 p.m.

LOS ANGELES — — Colorado men's basketball coach Tad Boyle won't be satisfied until his team sits atop the Pac-12 standings.

Considering the talent that's unavailable to him at this point, though, Boyle realizes his team is doing a nice job of keeping its head above water heading down the stretch of the season.

CU built a big lead on Sunday and then held off Southern Cal for an 83-74 victory at the Galen Center that put the Buffs in sole possession of fifth place in the conference.

"We want to be competing for a conference championship; we don't want to be in the middle of the muck, which is where we are," Boyle said. "Every league has that muck, and it's better than being in the bottom of it, I can tell you that. This team could have been there if we had felt sorry for ourselves and not competed like these guys have."


Advertisement

For more than a month, the Buffs have been without Spencer Dinwiddie and Tre'Shaun Fletcher, both out with knee injuries. They've also played two games - and most of Sunday - without another key player, Wesley Gordon, who was limited to 11 minutes as he recovers from a twisted ankle.

Despite that, CU (19-7, 8-5 Pac-12) was in control for much of Sunday's game and snapped a four-game road losing streak. The Buffs handed USC (10-15, 1-11) its sixth consecutive loss.

"This was a must-win for us," said sophomore Xavier Johnson, who had a team-high 20 points for the Buffs. "For us to be a great program and continue what we're doing we have to get wins. This was a must-win for us and we came out here strong from the beginning and we were able to win."

Johnson was one of five Buffs to score in double figures, just the fourth time this season they've done that.

Guard Askia Booker had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists; forward Josh Scott had 17 points and eight rebounds; and Xavier Talton tied his career high with 14 points while pulling down a career-high seven rebounds.

Freshman Jaron Hopkins added 10 points, while compiling career bests in assists (four) and steals (three).

"We can play better, but to win on the road when you don't play your best and you don't necessarily execute down the stretch the way you want to, is good," Boyle said. "But we have to finish stronger than we did. We know that.

"Overall I was pleased."

A 7-0 surge early in the game gave CU the lead for good and the Buffs never trailed during the final 36 minutes. The lead stretched to as many as 18 points when Scott had a dunk with 4 minutes, 38 seconds to play, giving the Buffs a 72-54 advantage.

From there, the Buffs got sloppy and let USC pull within eight during the final 30 seconds, but they had enough of a cushion to close out the game.

Offensively, it was another efficient night for the Buffs. They shot 50 percent (28-of-56) from the floor, including 47.1 percent (8-for-17) from 3-point range, and had 18 assists on their 28 buckets. CU is 7-1 this season when dishing out at least 15 assists.

The numbers that concerned Boyle, however, were the 17 turnovers his team accumulated and the fact that USC out-rebounded the Buffs 40-34.

"I think we turned it over a little too much and we didn't rebound like we should have," said Booker, who tied his season high with six turnovers. "So, yeah, we won the game, but there's some nicks that we know we need to tighten up."

The Buffs will take it, though. With just five games left in the regular season, they can't afford to let winnable games slip away. Sunday, they didn't.

"No matter how we got it, we got one (on the road) finally," Booker said.

Contact BuffZone.com Writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/brianhowell33.