CU men’s basketball preview: USC
MATCHUP: Colorado Buffaloes (10-6, 2-2 Pac-12 Conference) at USC Trojans (11-6, 2-2).
GAME TIME: Wednesday, 8 p.m. MST, Galen Center, Los Angeles.
BROADCAST: TV — FOX Sports 1; Radio — 850 AM.
COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, 8th season (159-101, 215-167 overall); USC — Andy Enfield, 5th season (81-70, 122-98).
LEADERS: Colorado — Scoring: G McKinley Wright, Fr., 16.2 ppg: Rebounding: G/F George King, Sr., 8.1 rpg; Assists: Wright, 5.3 apg. USC: Scoring: F Chimezie Metu, Jr., 17.2 ppg; Rebounding: F Bennie Boatwright, Jr., 7.3 rpg; Assists: G Jordan McLaughlin, Sr., 7.9 apg.
NOTES: After joining the Pac-12 CU won its first seven games against USC but has lost the past two. Overall the Buffs lead the series 9-5 with a 3-3 mark at USC…Buffs junior guard Namon Wright, a Los Angeles native, has shot 20-for-35 over the past three games while averaging 17.7 points and six rebounds…McKinley Wright’s 84 assists already ranks as the eighth-most among CU freshmen. He needs just four more to surpass both Matt Bullard and Donnie Boyce to move into sixth-place. McKinley Wright is on pace to top Chauncey Billups’ freshman record of 143 assists…USC began the season ranked 10th in the nation but already has suffered losses at the Galen Center against Texas A&M, Princeton, and Washington…Through the season’s first nine games, CU freshman Tyler Bey averaged 2.8 rebounds per game. In the seven games since he has averaged 6.4…CU completes is Los Angeles trip at UCLA on Saturday (8:30 p.m. MST, Pac-12 Network).
When he arrived at the University of Colorado, defeating USC wasn’t a big deal for Dom Collier and the rest of the CU men’s basketball team.
Collier played a part in two victories against the Trojans during his freshman season of 2014-15, including a memorable triple-overtime thriller in Los Angeles. Those happy memories against USC have faded, however, getting replaced in the psyche of Collier and fellow senior George King with a pair of defeats at the hands of the Trojans the past two seasons that count among the most painful of their CU careers.
On Wednesday the suddenly resurgent Buffs will have an opportunity to erase some of those bitter memories, and claim their first win in a true road game this season, when they visit the Trojans at the Galen Center in Los Angeles.
“That’s one team that we’ve kind of struggled with in the past,” Collier said. “We just need to get over that hump. I feel like these last two games are good momentum going into L.A. We haven’t won a game yet this year with this team on the road. I feel like having these two wins is a big confidence-booster going into L.A.”
Collier, of course, is referring to the two wins picked up last week against Arizona State and Arizona, both of which were ranked in the top 15 before falling to the Buffs in Boulder. A similar effort Wednesday night probably will get the Buffs over the hump against a USC team that began the season ranked 10th in the nation but has struggled with inconsistency. Still, the Buffs have battled to the cusp of victory against the Trojans in each of the past two seasons, only to have their hearts broken in the final minutes.
In both 2015-16 and 2016-17 CU and USC played just once, yet both times the Trojans handed the Buffs defeats that were among the most frustrating of each season. Two years ago at the Galen Center CU held a 62-48 lead with 8 minutes, 19 seconds remaining, only to watch a flurry of turnovers lead to a 31-10 game-closing USC run and a seven-point win for the Trojans.
The Buffs had an opportunity for payback at the Coors Events Center last year despite USC taking a seven-point lead with just under three minutes remaining. A bucket by King followed by consecutive 3-pointers from Xavier Johnson gave CU a one-point lead with 43.1 seconds left, but USC scored the game’s final four points to pull out the win.
“We’ve just got to stay dialed-in to what the game plan is and not get too high or get too low,” Collier said. “With the wins over this past weekend, this can’t define our season. We have to take this on the road.”
Like Arizona on Saturday, the USC program also was rocked by the preseason bombshell that resulted in the arrest of an assistant coach, Tony Bland, as part of a still-ongoing FBI corruption investigation. Also like Arizona, the Trojans so far have failed to live up to their lofty preseason expectations, with USC opening Pac-12 Conference play with a home loss against Washington and losing again on the road Sunday night on a half-court buzzer-beater by Stanford’s Daejon Davis.
“They’ve got players,” CU coach Tad Boyle said. “Talent is not something that USC is lacking. We’ve got to counteract that with defense, rebounding, toughness, energy.”