Down 10 with 1:20 remaining in the game, USC redshirt junior forward Noah Baumann stole the ball out of Colorado senior guard McKinley Wright IV’s hands. Seconds later, the ball was right back in Wright’s hands.
It was the story of the game. USC could not take care of the ball Thursday night, resulting in a 72-62 defeat to Colorado in the Trojans’ Pac-12 opener at Galen Center. The Trojans are now 5-2 on the season.
USC totaled 15 turnovers throughout the game, often disrupting the flow of the offense. The team shot 45% in the first half and 31% in the second half. Even though USC held Colorado to 41% shooting, USC just could not find baskets, especially down the final stretch, as extra possessions for the Buffaloes proved costly.
“[We] just never could make any shots the last six or seven minutes,” head coach Andy Enfield said in a virtual press conference after the game. “We had a lot of clean looks from the three, we had jump hooks, we had free throws and some wide open jump shots … Offensively we just need to step up.”
Inconsistency on offense and some mental mistakes on defense hurt the Trojans in the end.
“Tonight, it really just came down to us executing and making shots, they just did a better job of that,” redshirt senior guard Tahj Eaddy said. “We just gotta be sharper in terms of our details … making sure we know our scouting report … That kind of allowed them to separate at certain moments in the game.”
Colorado was in control almost the entire game, with USC only holding a lead for roughly three minutes. The Buffaloes shot 53% in the first half, led by Wright, who finished with a game-high 17 points.
The Trojans kept the game alive in the second half, out-scoring Colorado by 8 points up until the six-minute mark. Their defensive effort improved as well, holding the Buffaloes to only 30% shooting and forcing five turnovers.
The Trojans cut the lead to 3 with six minutes remaining. What came next was abysmal shooting, as they proceeded to go 1-for-12 from the field and only scored 4 points, missing some easy shots as the clock wound down.
“We have to finish shots that we’re capable of finishing,” Enfield said. “It’s a team game and we’re certainly going to learn from this … That was the most surprising thing to me tonight, just the easy shots we were missing and not finishing, which we normally always do.”
Eaddy led USC with 16 points on an efficient 5-of-11. He made some key baskets near the end to keep the Trojans in the game and matched Wright on the defensive end. However, he received little help.
In his Pac-12 debut, freshman forward Evan Mobley struggled with only 12 points on 5-14 shooting and a game-high five turnovers. His brother, sophomore forward Isaiah Mobley, scored 7 of the team’s first 12 points but went on to score only 2 the rest of the game while tacking on four turnovers.
Redshirt senior forward Chevez Goodwin was the fourth leading scorer with 7 points. Starting junior guard Drew Peterson had only 4. Sophomore forward Max Agbonkpolo scored only 6.
“We got a lot of open looks late, but we weren’t knocking them down and that ended up being the game,” Peterson said. “Tahj played his butt off, but the rest of the team has [just] got to help him out more.”
Evan Mobley, who played all but three minutes in the game, seemed winded in the final minutes, bricking a couple close jump hooks and a 3-pointer.
Enfield accepted some responsibility for Mobley’s lack of energy at the end.
“I’ll take some of the blame for Evan’s numbers tonight,” he said. “I played him too many minutes, I just have to manage his minutes better.”
USC has now lost five in a row against Colorado following a four-game win streak. This is also USC’s first loss in its last nine home games.
USC will face Utah Saturday at 1 p.m.