February 9, 2019 by Nicholas Yekikian
LOS ANGELES – If nonchalant was the word of the game on Wednesday against the Utes, effort defined the Trojan’s play against the Buffaloes on Saturday. It just wasn’t quite enough.
The lead changed hands seven times and the game was tied seven more in the fist half alone. There wasn’t a single lead change on Wednesday night against the Utes.
In the end, sloppy shooting and poor defense underneath the basket let the Trojans down, and USC (13-11 overall, 6-5 Pac-12) dropped its second home game in a row to Colorado (14-9, 5-6) 69 – 65.
“It was a typical Pac-12 game, they’re usually pretty close at halftime. It was just a matter of defending and executing,” said head coach Andy Enfield. “For the most part we did [our jobs] tonight.”
At the half the score was tied at 29 points and the Buffaloes were shooting just over 35 percent to the Trojan’s 38. And while the Trojans did a slightly better job creating separation and making shots in the last 20 minutes, the second half really belonged to the Buffs.
Colorado logged all but three of its 12 assists, came down with five more rebounds than the Trojans and shot 64 percent in second part of the game.
“It’s tough. It came down to the wire,” said junior guard Jonah Matthews. “It could have gone either way.”
The Trojans finished the game with 12 assists, just six turnovers and 24 points from senior forward Bennie Boatwright.
That wasn’t the problem. The problem was Colorado’s McKinley Wright who regularly made his way past both junior forward Nick Rakocevic and Boatwright for what Enfield called “easy layups.” The sophomore guard finished the game with 14 of his 20 points coming from inside the paint.
“The defensive coverage we had on him was to go under. He’s a good point guard so … [Colorado] just set the screen lower and he was able to get to the basket,” Matthews said.
Matthews added that the Buffaloes made the adjustment at halftime, and because of how quick Wright is he was able to slip through the Trojan’s big men.
“I don’t know why Nick and Bennie weren’t in the middle of the lane,” Enfield said. “That’s two big mental breakdowns late in the game.”
Rakocevic was again quiet, taking seven shots all night and making only three. Junior guard Derryck Thornton, senior guard Shaqquan Aaron and Matthews all shot less than 50 percent.
With less than 1:15 to go the Trojans were down 67 – 65. Aaron and Thornton both missed wide open threes that would have given USC the late lead.
Colorado’s D’Shawn Schwartz was fouled with 14 seconds left and made two free throws that sealed the win for the Buffaloes.
By the time the final buzzer sounded the game had been tied 19 times and the lead was swapped 13 different occasions. Saturday’s loss was USC’s closest this season.
The Trojans are headed to the bay for their next contest against Stanford on Wednesday at 8 p.m.