What went right: CU outrebounded USC 32-26 and went 10-for-23 on 3-pointers.
What went wrong: The Buffs' defense was lagging all night, with USC's .547 shooting percentage counting as the second-best by a CU opponent this season.
Star of the game: Lucas Siewert. The sophomore forward turned in another fine effort off the bench, going 6-for-11 while posting team-leading totals of 16 points and eight rebounds, the latter of which was a career-high.
What's next: The Buffs host UCLA in their final regular-season home game on Sunday (2 p.m., ESPNU).
Earlier this week, Colorado coach Tad Boyle offered a lengthy train of thought on how, once the X's and O's are all scribbled out and game plans are soaked up, basketball often simply comes down to players making plays at crunch time.
Two players did just that on Wednesday night at the Coors Events Center. Unfortunately for the Buffaloes, they both were wearing USC jerseys.
The Buffs had no answer down the stretch for the Trojans' high-scoring duo of Chimezie Metu and Jordan McLaughlin, who helped USC to break a late tie with 12 consecutive points as the Buffs dropped a 75-64 decision in a Pac-12 Conference battle at the Coors Events Center.
It was the Buffs third consecutive loss and their fourth in a row against the Trojans.
"Players make plays at the end of games. There's no doubt about that," Boyle said. "I don't think it has anything to do with juniors, seniors versus freshmen. I'm not going to play that card. We just didn't get it done down the stretch. But they did."
USC had the final say in a back-and-fort second half, scoring 12 consecutive points to break a 58-58 tie and ultimately sweep the season series from the Buffs. CU was held scoreless for 7 minutes, 28 seconds during that run and was unable to answer the Trojans as they had through the game's first 31 minutes.
Metu and McLaughlin combined to score 10 points during USC's decisive 12-0 run. Metu proved unstoppable to the Buffs for the second time this season, at one point scoring eight consecutive points for the Trojans in the second half. Metu went 10-for-16 before finishing with a game-high 21 points after posting a double-double against the Buffs last month in Los Angeles. McLaughlin recorded 18 points and seven assists, with his 4-for-6 effort on 3-pointers giving him an 8-for-10 mark from long range in two games against CU this season.
USC went 10-for-20 on 3-pointers and finished with an overall shooting percentage of .547, the second-best mark by a CU opponent this season.
"Fifty-five percent in your own building," Boyle said. "When we've had success here, certainly in that three-game stretch against Utah, Cal, and Stanford...those three games, nobody shot over 37 percent against us in this building. And this team comes in and shoots 55 percent. Our defense was not good enough tonight. And when we got stops, we couldn't get rebounds."
A layup by McKinley Wright pulled the Buffs within 39-34 of USC at halftime, and CU got within two on a D'Shawn Schwartz 3-pointer early in the second half.
A back-and-forth second half ensued from there, with the Trojans putting together a 12-2 run to pull ahead by 12 before Lucas Siewert sparked the Buffs by scoring nine points in a 14-0 run that put CU ahead 52-50 with 12 minutes remaining.
The game was tied 58-58 after a 3-pointer by CU's Dom Collier with about eight and a half minutes remaining, but that's when Metu and McLaughlin took over.
"Metu, he got hot," CU freshman guard McKinley Wright said. "We didn't do a good job of fronting. Coach wanted us to front him and make them throw it over the top. He caught some deep catches and he was in rhythm.
"I think for the most part our energy was pretty good throughout tonight's game. Our rotations weren't that good and I think they hit some tough shots that gave the confidence."
SOUTHERN CAL 75, COLORADO 64
SOUTHERN CAL (20-9, 11-5)
Rakocevic 2-4 1-2 5, Metu 10-16 0-0 21, McLaughlin 6-10 2-3 18, Mathews 1-2 2-2 4, Stewart 3-9 1-2 9, Thornton 3-5 0-0 7, Aaron 2-3 0-0 6, Usher 2-4 1-2 5. Totals 29-53 7-11 75.
COLORADO (15-13, 7-9)
Walton 3-9 0-0 6, M.Wright 5-12 0-0 12, King 0-6 4-4 4, Bey 1-3 0-0 2, Schwartz 2-2 2-2 8, Siewert 6-11 2-3 16, N.Wright 2-5 2-2 7, Nikolic 0-0 0-0 0, Collier 3-5 0-0 9. Totals 22-53 10-11 64.
Halftime — Southern Cal 36-31. 3-point goals — Southern Cal 10-20 (McLaughlin 4-6, Aaron 2-3, Stewart 2-5, Metu 1-2, Thornton 1-3, Usher 0-1), Colorado 10-23 (Collier 3-5, Schwartz 2-2, Siewert 2-2, M.Wright 2-4, N.Wright 1-3, Bey 0-1, Walton 0-2, King 0-4). Fouled out — Collier. Rebounds — Southern Cal 24 (Rakocevic 6), Colorado 28 (Siewert 8). Assists — Southern Cal 13 (McLaughlin 7), Colorado 15 (M.Wright 6). Total fouls — Southern Cal 13, Colorado 15.