LOS ANGELES, CA- Colorado point guard McKinley Wright poured in 20 points on 64 percent shooting as the Buffaloes nailed late-game foul shots to beat USC at Galen Center, 69-65.
Colorado’s Lucas Siewert picked up his fifth foul with 2:53 left and 6-foot-7 guard Tyler Bey replaced him. Wright scored twice, putting Colorado ahead 67-65 with 34.7 seconds left.
“(We had) two big mental breakdowns the last two minutes of the game,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said. “I’m not going to make excuses for (my team) because I can’t.”
Wright shot a 3-point airball as the shot clock expired. Out of a full timeout, USC point guard Derryck Thornton missed a 3-point shot from the top of the key. Buffaloes forward D’Shawn Schwartz netted two clutch free throws in the bonus and Bennie Boatwright missed an open 3-pointer, sealing Colorado’s victory.
“If you miss wide open 3s like we did and give up two layups you’re going to lose,” Enfield said. “Tonight we were there, we played hard. We just didn’t play well enough down the stretch.”
Colorado leaves Southern California with wins over both UCLA and USC for the first time since joining the Pac-12, improving to 14-9 overall.
“Our guys are really growing up… you could sense it even against UCLA,” Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said.
The Buffaloes are 5-6 in Pac-12 competition. After the win, Colorado is only two games back of second place in the Pac-12.
“It’s tough, it came down to the wire and could’ve gone either way,” USC shooting guard Jonah Mathews said. “(The Pac-12) is still anybody’s ballgame so we just need to keep playing hard and get some road wins.”
USC drops its second straight game, falling to 13-11 overall and 6-5 in conference. With the defeat, the Trojans drop out of a third-place tie with Arizona State in Pac-12 play. Siewert scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds. Forward Evan Battey supplied 14 points off the Colorado bench.
“Evan Battey is really coming of age, it was a big-time game from him,” Boyle said.
Boatwright posted a game-high 24 points for the Trojans while grabbing five rebounds and distributing four assists.
“Boatwright was a beast,” Boyle said. “He’s really coming into his own and he’s a really tough match-up.”
Shaqquan Aaron was also a major contributor for the Trojans, scoring 13 points. Aaron hit a left-wing 3-pointer to tie the score at 52. Battey scored consecutive buckets inside for Colorado, but the Trojans fired back with another Aaron 3-point shot. Bey dunked his first two points of the game with just under six minutes left to play.
Bey emphatically blocked a Thornton dunk attempt to kick off second half action. Five straight Shane Gatling points gave Colorado a 44-39 lead, almost seven minutes into the second period.
After entering the game with just under 13 minutes left in the first half, USC freshman Kevin Porter Jr. drove left baseline and completed an acrobatic finish on the other side of the rim. Battey spun and scored in the lane to give Colorado a 26-23 lead, as 3:40 remained in the first period.
Porter crossed over, charged to the basket and scored plus a foul with 4.3 seconds to go in the first half. He made the free throw, tying the halftime score at 29.
Siewert led all first-half scorers with 10 points. Both teams shot under 37 percent for the half. Mathews, who picked up two early fouls, played just eight minutes in the first half.
“We have seven games left in the Pac-12 season so it’s not a secret what it takes to win,” Enfield said.
USC held Bey, Colorado’s second-leading scorer at 12.5 points per game, to just two points in 24 minutes. The Buffaloes outscored USC in bench points, 15-5, and outrebounded the Trojans by nine.
Both teams shot under 30 percent from the 3-point line. Colorado shot 49 percent, while USC converted 40 percent of their field goals.
“We didn’t play a bad game,” Enfield said. “I thought both teams played well and played really hard.”
Colorado snapped USC’s streak of 40 consecutive wins when holding opponents to under 70 points. With 12 assists against the Buffaloes, USC falls to 1-11 on the season in games it has under 16 dimes.
Stanford (12-10 overall, 5-5 Pac-12) awaits USC in Palo Alto. The Trojans have won their previous two meetings against Stanford, including a 77-66 victory at Galen Center in early January.
Five of Colorado’s last eight regular season games are at home. A clash with Arizona State (15-7 overall, 6-4 Pac-12) is next for the Buffaloes, in Boulder. The Sun Devils just handed previously unbeaten Washington their first Pac-12 loss of the season.
Blake Atwell is a multimedia journalist and sophomore at Santa Monica College.