No. 19 USC looks to hold off Colorado

NCAA Basketball

The Colorado Buffaloes have endured some disappointing losses in Pac-12 play this season, but one of their best victories came at Southern California on Dec. 31.

Thanks in part to that 72-62 win in Los Angeles, the Buffaloes are still alive (barely) in the hunt for their first regular-season conference title. They could get another big win when the teams meet in Boulder, Colo., on Thursday night.

Colorado (17-7, 11-6) is in fourth place in the Pac-12, trailing No. 19 USC by 2 1/2 games with just three games left in its regular season. A loss would end any chance the Buffaloes have to win the conference.

Thursday’s game will be one of the last at home for the Buffaloes’ leading scorer McKinley Wright IV, who holds the program’s career assist record.

“This place gave me a home. Like to the point where I wasn’t going to Minnesota for my summers. I was staying in Boulder,” he said this week. “Boulder welcomed me, my coaches welcomed me. Coming where I come from, in a rough neighborhood and stuff, Boulder made it easy for me to stay and keep myself from getting into any type of trouble.

“I miss home, but Boulder kind of gave me the outlet to stay out of the way, stay level-headed, stay grounded, continue to work on my game.”

Wright was instrumental in the first game against the Trojans, scoring a game-high 19 points. He had 21 in a win at Oregon State on Saturday to help Colorado earn a split of its four-game road trip.

The Trojans (19-4, 13-3) are coming off a 72-58 home win over Oregon on Monday, which came two days after they dropped a home game to Arizona, 81-72. USC had been rolling before facing the Wildcats, winning seven in a row to vault to the top of the conference standings.

“We feel like we let one slip against Arizona,” Tahj Eaddy, who scored 24 points, said after the Monday victory. “We wanted to let teams know you can’t bully us. We’re showing we’re fighters.”

The Trojans won the game without Isaiah Mobley, who sustained a calf strain against the Wildcats on Saturday. They hold a half-game lead over rival UCLA with a showdown looming on the last Saturday of the regular season.

“We control our own destiny,” Eaddy said. “It’s going to be a tough road, but we’re ready.”

It starts Thursday at Colorado, where USC will have more than Wright to worry about. The Buffaloes have three players averaging double figures in scoring. Colorado has stuck together through some of its disappointments, which coach Tad Boyle said has been important.

“This team is a connected team,” Boyle said. “They care about each other. They care about winning. And I think it shows the way we played both against Oregon (on Feb. 18) and against Oregon State. We came up a little short against Oregon, but it wasn’t because our guys don’t care or didn’t play hard.”

–Field Level Media

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