It’s a situation that USC fans and followers have seen play out all-too-often this season: The Trojans jump out to a double-digit lead early in the second half, but then proceed to watch the lead evaporate in the closing moments of the game.
However, USC would not allow itself to be the victim of a hoops horror story Wednesday night as the Trojans pulled away with a late rally to defeat Colorado on the road, 75-64.
USC used a 12-7 run early in the second half to jump to a 48-38 advantage on the Buffs with just over 15 minutes remaining in regulation. A dunk from Trojan junior forward Chimezie Metu, who finished with a game-high 21 points (10-of-16 FG), capped off the USC run.
And, almost on cue, the Trojans would proceed to go on a three-and-a-half minute scoring drought that saw Colorado capitalize with a 14-2 run, giving them the lead. A pair of free throws from Colorado’s junior guard Namon Wright gave the Buffs a 52-50 lead over the Trojans with 12:27 remaining in regulation.
In the following four minutes, the teams went back-and-forth, trading leads until a 3-pointer from Buffs’ senior guard Dominique Collier knotted the contest at 58 with 8:30 remaining in play.
Over the next seven minutes, USC (20-9 overall, 11-5 in Pac-12) went on a 12-0 run that would ultimately put the victory on ice. A free throw from Trojan senior guard Elijah Stewart gave USC a 70-58 lead with 1:11 remaining in regulation. Colorado shot a combined 0-for-5 during the Trojans’ game-winning run near the end of regulation.
A 3-pointer from USC senior guard Jordan McLaughlin gave the Trojans a 69-58 lead with 3:13 left in play. McLaughlin finished Wednesday night’s contest with 18 points (6-of-10 FG) and a game-high seven assists.
Metu tallied 14 points (7-of-11 FG) in the second half, scoring many of his baskets during USC’s crucial runs late in regulation. A layup from Metu with just over five minutes to play in regulation gave USC a 66-58 advantage.
Wednesday night’s contest against Colorado (15-13, 7-9) was USC’s first game since the season-long departure of junior forward Bennie Boatwright due to a knee injury was made official. The contest against the Buffs also came just hours after the announcement that USC sophomore forward De’Anthony Melton would be withdrawing from the University.
Stewart rewrote the USC basketball history books against Colorado Wednesday. A 3-pointer from the senior guard four minutes into the second half gave Stewart the 233rd 3-point field goal of his USC career. Stewart set the record for career 3-point field goals by a Trojan, which was formerly held by Rodrick Stewart (232).
The record-setting 3-pointer from Stewart gave USC a 48-38 lead with 16:00 left in play.
Overall, the Trojans mounted a strong offensive effort against Colorado. USC finished the game shooting 29-for-53 (55 percent) from the floor. From beyond the arc, the Trojans put together a 10-for-20 (50 percent) shooting effort.
Leading the way for Colorado on Wednesday was sophomore forward Lucas Siewart, who finished with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting. A 3-pointer from Siewart with just under 13 minutes left in play tied the game at 50 apiece.
USC picked up its largest lead of the game on its final shot attempt of the night. A 3-point field goal from redshirt junior guard Shaqquan Aaron put the Trojans ahead 75-62 with 15 seconds left in regulation.
Despite being out-rebounded (32-26) and out-assisted (15-13) by Colorado, USC came away with the victory. The Trojans did, however, outscore the Buffs in the paint, 32-22.
USC underwent an offensive surge late in the first half that saw it hit eight consecutive field goal attempts in what was a 16-8 run for the team. A dunk from USC freshman forward Jordan Usher capped the run and gave the Trojans a 36-29 lead with under two minutes left in the first half.
Leading the Trojans in rebounding was sophomore forward Nick Rakocevic, who finished with six boards and 5 points (2-of-4 FG) scored Wednesday.
The victory moves USC into sole possession of second place in the Pac-12 standings. The Trojans are just a game-and-a-half behind conference-leading Arizona (21-6, 11-3).
Following the win, USC will stay on the road to take on Utah (17-9, 9-6) on Saturday. The Trojans defeated the Utes, 84-67, at the Galen Center on Jan. 14, a win that snapped USC’s then eight-game losing streak to Utah.
Offensively, the Utes will enter Thursday’s contest with four players averaging double-digits in scoring. Senior guard Justin Bibbins is Utah’s go-to option on offense, averaging 14.2 PPG this season.
USC has now swept Colorado in the season series; the Trojans defeated Colorado at the Galen Center on Jan. 10, 70-58. The Trojans now have a four-game winning streak against the Buffs.
The victory clinches USC’s third-straight 20-win season under head coach Andy Enfield. The last — and only — time USC has achieved three-straight 20-win seasons was from 2007-2009 under head coach Tim Floyd.
The Trojans will look to make program history on Saturday; USC has never swept Colorado and Utah in the same season.