For Evan Battey’s sake, maybe the Colorado Buffaloes should schedule as many games as possible in southern California.
Saturday’s 69-65 win at USC obviously was a memorable and emotional one for the Buffs — CU avenged a stinging loss at the Galen Center from a year earlier that saw the Trojans rub it in with a needless timeout in the waning seconds, and the win clinched just the second two-game road sweep for CU since joining the Pac-12 — yet it also was a memorable one for Battey.
With dozens of his friends and family members dotting the sizeable CU cheering section behind the Buffs’ bench, Battey came through with 14 points and six rebounds while finishing 5-for-7 from the field and 4-for-4 at the free throw line. Battey also didn’t flinch in the paint against the Trojans’ physical tactics and provided a number of key plays down the stretch as the two sides traded leads throughout the second half.
Battey’s father attended UCLA, but the redshirt freshman finished with just two points and one rebound in the Buffs’ win at Pauley Pavilion three days earlier. In his first game at USC, where his mom went to school, it was a much different story.
“It feels so good. It hits home personally for me because I got to play at my mom’s and my dad’s schools,” Battey said. “We’re getting tougher every day. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, toughness is a mentality. We’re starting to get that.”
Of Battey’s six double-digit scoring games this season, two have occurred in southern California. In a loss at San Diego on Nov. 20 in a game that also saw a number of Battey backers make the commute from the Los Angeles area, Battey scored a season-best 18 points. His effort Saturday night included back-to-back baskets that broke a 52-52 tie in the latter stages in the first half, as well as a nifty assist to Tyler Bey for an easy dunk moments later.
Battey also unofficially was credited with another assist when he quickly jumped in to quell the slight postgame scrum sparked by USC associate head coach Jason Hart when he took umbrage at Boyle’s emotional response to the win…which was far less bush-league than the stunt the Trojans pulled a year earlier.
Battey will try to keep the hot hand going when the Buffs host Arizona State Wednesday night (8:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1).