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Last dance for Evan Battey in CU Buffs-USC hoops rivalry at hand

Fifth-year senior has never lost against hometown team

BOULDER, CO - Feb. 25, 2021: ...
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Colorado senior Evan Battey and the Buffaloes host Southern California on Thursday night looking for an eighth consecutive win in the series.
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It was four years ago last week when the rivalry changed for good.

The night of Jan. 10, 2018 was a memorable one, if not a victorious one, for the Colorado men’s basketball team in Los Angeles. Coming off wins at home against ranked teams from Arizona State and, especially, Arizona, the bolstered confidence of a young Buffaloes team was derailed by a 70-58 loss at USC.

Four days previous, CU head coach Tad Boyle offered his “hell yes!” exclamation following the win against Arizona when asked if there was extra satisfaction in defeating one of the teams embroiled in the then-new FBI recruiting corruption probe.

USC, of course, was one of those teams, too. And with the Trojans holding that 12-point lead, head coach Andy Enfield took a timeout in the waning seconds to lead a courtside celebration with his team. The Trojans then tried to run a set play on their final possession.

USC completed a regular season sweep of the Buffs that year, but CU has enjoyed payback ever since. Fifth-year senior and Los Angeles native Evan Battey was redshirting as a true freshman that season, and was just weeks removed from the stroke that threatened to end his basketball career. As an active player, he has never lost to the Trojans in three seasons covering seven games. That run will be put to the test when the Buffs open a homestand ripe with opportunity against the Trojans on Thursday (5:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).

 

“Any time you go and play against a hometown team like USC, right down the street from me, it’s a great opportunity to just compete,” Battey said. “I’m definitely going to miss playing them. I’m sorry I didn’t get to play them at the Galen Center this year. It’s coming to an end…all the rivalries I had coming in to my college career are coming to an end.”

After losing at Stanford and then at home against Oregon, USC dropped 11 spots to No. 16 in the latest AP Top 25 released on Monday. Nevertheless, the opportunity to extend the seven-game winning streak against USC — sweeps in each of the past three regular seasons, plus a matchup in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals last spring — is a critical one for an improving CU team still in need of signature wins to bolster any possible NCAA Tournament credentials.

The Buffs are coming off a road split in Arizona but have not yet proven themselves against top-tier competition. CU is 0-3 this season against ranked teams, losing at home against Tennessee and on the road against UCLA and Arizona. After trying to extend their three-year run against USC, the Buffs will have another chance to change that winless mark on Saturday against the ninth-ranked Bruins.

“It’s too early to worry about NET (rankings),” said Boyle, whose club stood at No. 89 in the NET on Monday. “We’ve just got to play well. We’ve just got to figure out a way to beat USC. But yes, we knew we had this stretch — Arizona, Arizona State on the road, then UCLA and USC at home — that’s a great opportunity for us to make strides.

“It’s a great opportunity to earn respect nationally and to make a move in the league standings. This is our only crack at USC and we’re both 4-2 in the league. It’s a separation game.”

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