What went right: CU had good energy from the start and played aggressive all night. That contributed to the Buffs dominating the boards (44-31) and outscoring the Trojans 15-2 in second-chance points.
What went wrong: The Buffs got sloppy at times late in the game — six of their 18 turnovers came in the fourth quarter — and appeared to get rattled under pressure. They were able to stay composed enough to win, however.
Star of the game: Makenzie Ellis. Several Buffs played well, but Ellis had one of the best games she's had this season, with six points and seven rebounds, all of which seemed to come at key moments.
What's next: CU will visit Utah on Thursday at 6 p.m.
In the early stages of the fourth quarter, the unraveling began.
Leading by four and seeking their first win since Dec. 19, the Colorado women's basketball team opened the fourth quarter on Sunday night with four turnovers and four missed shots, coughing up the lead.
The Buffaloes have been in this spot before and the past results weren't good.
This time was different.
Kennedy Leonard had a big fourth quarter, the Buffs dominated the glass and they put an end to their 10-game losing streak with a 66-63 win against Southern California at Coors Events Center. It was CU's first win since beating Presbyterian 72-60 on Dec. 19.
"We haven't been focusing too much on the past scores, but I think this one is really great for us because we finally were able to get that breakthrough," said junior Haley Smith, who led the Buffs with 18 points and seven rebounds. "We just had that bit of confidence boost right there and it shows us all the hard work we've been putting in is paying off. It's really powerful in that way."
Colorado (6-15, 1-9 Pac-12) had held fourth-quarter leads against Washington and Arizona in recent weeks, but couldn't close.
After their rough start to the fourth on Sunday, though, the Buffs called a timeout and regrouped.
"It was a grow-up moment," head coach Linda Lappe said. "We've been in that situation a lot. We had it in our minds we were going to play free and have fun. We called a timeout and really just said, 'Reset and play like you were playing in the first minute of the game. Let's not over think what we were doing.'"
Youth and inexperience has cost the Buffs in the past, but this time their freshmen — Leonard, Alexis Robinson and Makenzie Ellis — all came through.
Leonard scored eight of her 17 points in the fourth and did an exceptional job running the offense. Robinson had 10 points and four boards on the night. Ellis had perhaps her best game of the season, with six points and seven rebounds, all of which seemed to come at key moments.
"I do think that I helped a lot, especially like coach said in keeping the balls alive and giving us extra possessions," said Ellis, who tied her season high in rebounds.
Ellis contributed to the Buffs holding a 44-31 edge in rebounding. They out-rebounded the Trojans 8-0 in the final 2:30.
"I think rebounding is just effort, full-on effort," Ellis said. "Everyone boxed out well and got ourselves in position. For me, every time I saw the ball, I just dove on it and went for it."
For the first time in awhile, that's how the Buffs attacked the game in general.
They didn't get rattled when USC made a run early in the fourth, or when the Trojans' Aliyah Mazyck made two 3-pointers in the final minute — the only two 3s USC hit all night — to give themselves a chance.
This time, the Buffs made the plays they needed to make and walked off the court with a win.
"When you think about team wins and how much everybody contributed to that win, it was unbelievable," Lappe said. "I thought everybody did their part to a high level, with a ton of energy. It was a fun game to be a part of; it was a fun game to witness."
The Buffs played their second game in a row without junior Lauren Huggins. She remains day to day with a concussion.
Colorado 66, USC 63
USC (16-6, 4-6 Pac-12)
Simon 1-6 0-0 2, Fagbenle 6-9 5-6 17, Edwards 4-13 6-8 14, Mazyck 4-8 5-6 15, Lloyd 1-8 0-0 2, Taito 0-0 1-2 1, Jaco 6-13 0-0 12, Abejon 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-57 17-22 63..
COLORADO (6-15, 1-9)
Smith 7-11 2-2 18, Swan 4-8 1-2 9, Correal 0-0 0-0 0, Robinson 5-11 0-4 10, Leonard 5-13 7-10 17, Ellis 1-1 4-4 6, Thomas 1-5 0-1 2, Beard-Fails 2-7 0-0 4. Totals 25-56 14-23 66..
Score by quarters:USC 13 14 14 22 — 63 Colorado 16 15 16 19 — 66
3-point field goals — USC 2-15 (Mazyck 2-4, Edwards 0-5, Jaco 0-5, Lloyd 0-1), CU 2-7 (Smith 2-2, Robinson 0-2, Thomas 0-2, Leonard 0-1). Rebounds — USC 31 (Fagbenle 13), CU 44 (Smith, Ellis 7). Assists — USC 9 (Lloyd 3), CU 8 (Robinson 3). Turnovers — USC 13, CU 18. Total fouls — USC 25, CU 20. Fouled out — Fagbenle, Mazyck, Taito. A — 1,583.