Snapshot: CU Buffs at USC Trojans
Turning point: It wasn’t one stretch that doomed the Buffs, although falling into a 15-3 hole out of the gate didn’t help. CU kept rallying, but couldn’t get over the top thanks to a season-high 22 turnovers.
Buff of the game: Lawson Lovering. The senior center recorded the first double-double of his career, posting career-highs with 13 points and 14 rebounds.
What’s next?: The Buffs face an even bigger challenge in the back half of the Los Angeles trip on Saturday at No. 7 UCLA (6 p.m. MT, FOX).
LOS ANGELES — The Colorado men’s basketball team have been rude guests in recent seasons at the Galen Center.
On Thursday, the Buffaloes were overly generous guests. And it cost them dearly.
The Buffaloes shook off a slow start but ultimately were undone by the highest turnover total in more than two years, as Colorado dropped a 68-61 decision in a Pac-12 Conference battle at USC. The Buffs posted wins in their previous three trips to USC, but will sport a 3-4 conference record going into the Los Angeles trip finale on Saturday at No. 7 UCLA.
CU finished with 22 turnovers, its highest total of the season and the most by the Buffs since they committed 23 turnovers in a hastily-scheduled, COVID-replacement game at Tennessee on Dec. 8, 2020.
USC also recorded nine blocked shots, including four from Pac-12 blocks leader Joshua Morgan. On a night when the Buffs displayed enough grit to rally from a deep early hole, while playing solid defense and dominating the rebounding battle, the 31 empty possessions were far too much to overcome.
The Trojans finished with a game-changing 20-7 edge on points off turnovers.
“We talked before the game having to make good decisions in the lane, and we didn’t do that,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “When you get nine shots blocked and you turn it over 22 times, you’re not going to beat anybody in the Pac-12. I don’t care who you’re playing.
“Tip our hat to our guys, because they competed their tails off. They really did. To have a four-point lead in the second half and play that badly on offense? It says something about our grit and our toughness, but we’re just not playing very smart.”
The Buffs limped out of the gate, committing five turnovers in the first 4 minutes, 15 seconds of the game while missing five of their first six shots. USC took advantage of the giveaways to get easy baskets and race to a 15-3 lead, but CU gradually chipped away from there.
CU rallied to within 34-32 at halftime and kept the momentum rolling after the break, scoring six straight points to take a 40-36 lead. USC responded with a 14-2 run to push its advantage back to eight points, but the Buffs didn’t go away quietly. Colorado cut the Trojans’ lead to three points on several occasions and finally got within 60-59 on a bank in the lane from KJ Simpson with two minutes remaining.
A step-back jumper from USC’s Drew Peterson made it a three-point game again, but CU wasted a couple chances down the stretch with two more turnovers. USC’s Kobe Johnson hit four free throws in the final 39.4 seconds to ice the win for the Trojans.
“It’s hard to rally back when you get down early in the first half,” CU center Lawson Lovering said. “We fought, but like coach said in the locker room, we can fight, but it’s a simple game and we’ve got to take care of the simple things. We didn’t do that. We didn’t play smart at all and that’s what cost us the game. Even if you play tough but you don’t play smart, good teams will still beat you.”
On a night when the Buffs dominated the glass (44-29) and played defense that was good enough to win — USC finished with a .429 shooting percentage, but shot just .373 after a 7-for-10 start fueled by CU turnovers — even Boyle admitted his usual mantra of defense and rebounding fell flat in light of the Buffs’ offensive struggles.
Lovering was a bright spot for the Buffs, recording the first double-double of his career with 13 points and 14 rebounds. Simpson finished with 17 points and Tristan da Silva added 13 but those two players, CU’s top two scores, also combined for 13 of the Buffs’ 22 turnovers.
“We let one get away,” Boyle said. “This team is not going to lose their fight. They’re not going to lose their resolve. But we better play better, and smarter, than we did tonight. I always blame our defense and rebounding, but our defense and rebounding were not the issues tonight. It was our offensive ineptitude.”
Southern Cal 68, Colorado 61
COLORADO (11-7, 3-4 Pac-12)
da Silva 5-12 2-2 13, Lovering 6-10 1-4 13, Clifford 0-4 0-0 0, Hadley 2-3 0-0 4, Simpson 7-14 2-2 17, O’Brien 1-4 0-0 2, Ruffin 3-8 3-3 12, Hammond 0-3 0-0 0, E.Wright 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-58 8-11 61.
SOUTHERN CAL (12-5, 4-2)
Morgan 5-8 2-4 12, Ellis 6-13 0-2 14, K.Johnson 1-4 6-6 8, Peterson 6-12 2-2 15, White 3-7 2-3 8, Dixon-Waters 4-11 0-0 9, Thomas 1-2 0-0 2, Iwuchukwu 0-2 0-0 0, Hornery 0-1 0-0 0, Niagu 0-0 0-0 0, Sellers 0-1 0-0 0, K.Wright 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-61 12-17 68.
Halftime — Southern Cal 34-32. 3-point goals — Colorado 5-17 (Ruffin 3-6, da Silva 1-3, Simpson 1-4, Hammond 0-1, O’Brien 0-1, Clifford 0-2), Southern Cal 4-16 (Ellis 2-5, Dixon-Waters 1-3, Peterson 1-5, Hornery 0-1, K.Johnson 0-1, White 0-1). Rebounds — Colorado 44 (Lovering 14), Southern Cal 29 (K.Johnson 7). Assists — Colorado 15 (Hadley 4), Southern Cal 16 (Ellis 6). Total Fouls — Colorado 16, Southern Cal 13.