LOS ANGELES — The Colorado Buffaloes often point out how their defense and rebounding, which have been strengths of the team for much of the season, are traits that travel well.
The defense and rebounding were glaringly absent during Thursday’s loss at UCLA. However, perhaps the luggage containing the defense and rebounding simply got lost in transit to Los Angeles, because they showed up just fine Saturday night at USC.
Playing with a defensive edge that had been missing in recent road losses against the Bruins and Arizona, the 20th-ranked Buffs completely stifled the Trojans’ attack to run away with a 78-57 win at the Galen Center.
It was the Buffs’ largest margin of victory in a Pac-12 Conference road game since posting a 74-50 win at USC on Jan. 26, 2012.
The win, combined with Stanford’s win on Saturday against No. 11 Oregon, keeps the Buffs in a crowded pack atop the Pac-12 standings going into next week’s home dates against Cal and Stanford. Five teams will start the week with three league losses — Oregon (7-3), CU (6-3), USC (6-3), Stanford (5-3), and Arizona (5-3).
“We just took that last game personal,” CU forward Tyler Bey said. “We didn’t come out and play how we wanted to last game. We just took care of business tonight. Played with each other and dialed-in all the way.”
The Buffs used a 13-3 run in the first half to take the lead for good, building a 33-24 lead at halftime. CU intensified its defensive pressure early in the second half, holding the Trojans scoreless for a stretch of six and a half minutes while reeling off 13 consecutive points.
It was a balanced effort for CU, with four players finishing with double-figure points while Dallas Walton and Eli Parquet provided key contributions off the bench. Bey paced the Buffs with 16 points and seven rebounds, while McKinley Wright finished with 12 points, eight assists, six rebounds, and a career-high four steals.
The Buffs entered the game having surrendered 43 offensive rebounds in their previous three Pac-12 road games, but they limited USC to just seven offensive rebounds and posted a 33-27 rebounding advantage overall.
CU held USC to a .379 shooting percentage with a 5-for-16 mark on 3-pointers. The Buffs shot .519, surpassing the 50 percent mark for the second time in Pac-12 play and fourth time overall this season.
“I credit our players. They bounced back,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “I always say players are so much more resilient than coaches sometimes. I think just young people in general. They were dialed-in. They were ready. This team has bounced back from losses pretty darn well this year. I’m really proud of them.”
What went right: The Buffs shot .519 and held USC to a .379 mark. CU also was 15-for-17 at the free throw line.
What went wrong: Very little. CU shot the ball well, outrebounded USC, and committed only 10 turnovers.
Star of the game: McKinley Wright IV. The junior point guard filled up the stat sheet, finishing with 16 points, eight assists, six rebounds, and a career-high four steals.
What’s next: The Buffs return to the CU Events Center for their next-to-last home series of the season, beginning Thursday against Cal (6 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
Colorado 78, USC 57
COLORADO (17-5, 6-3 Pac-12)
Wright 3-7 6-6 12, Schwartz 4-10 3-3 12, Parquet 2-4 0-0 5, Bey 6-9 2-4 16, Siewert 5-6 0-0 12, Battey 4-9 0-0 9, Gatling 2-4 2-2 7, Walton 1-2 2-2 5, Kountz 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-52 15-17 78.
SOUTHERN CAL (17-5, 6-3)
Mathews 4-15 1-2 11, Okongwu 3-8 5-6 11, Rakocevic 3-8 0-0 6, Utomi 3-4 0-0 8, E.Anderson 1-5 0-0 2, Mobley 5-8 1-1 12, Weaver 3-8 1-2 7, Adlesh 0-1 0-0 0, Agbonkpolo 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-58 8-11 57.
Halftime – Colorado 33-24. 3-Point Goals – Colorado 9-19 (Bey 2-2, Siewert 2-3, Battey 1-1, Walton 1-1, Gatling 1-3, Parquet 1-3, Schwartz 1-5, Wright 0-1), Southern Cal 5-16 (Utomi 2-3, Mathews 2-5, Mobley 1-2, Adlesh 0-1, Rakocevic 0-2, Weaver 0-3). Rebounds – Colorado 33 (Bey 7), Southern Cal 26 (Okongwu 10). Assists – Colorado 14 (Wright 8), Southern Cal 10 (E.Anderson 4). Total Fouls – Colorado 16, Southern Cal 17. A – 5,736.