USC’s Chimezie Metu puts emphatic stamp in win over Colorado
Chimezie Metu flexed his biceps and let out a primal scream after his vicious dunk with about three minutes left Wednesday night, the forward unleashing a night’s worth of pent-up frustration with his authoritative slam toward the end of a 70-58 victory by USC over Colorado in the Galen Center.
The 6-foot-11 junior, who leads the Trojans with a 17.2-point average, made two of 11 shots, went almost 26 minutes without a field goal and absorbed several hard fouls before the dunk.
But Metu was still able to impose his will despite a three-for-13 night from the field, making all eight free throws and scoring 14 points, notching a career-high six blocked shots, 13 rebounds — five offensive — two steals and an assist to lead the Trojans to the Pac-12 Conference win.
“He missed a lot of shots from the field, but he played tremendous basketball,” coach Andy Enfield said. “Everyone has off nights, but it’s nice to be able to win a game when your two leading scorers are four for 22 from the field.”
Enfield was referring to forward Bennie Boatwright, who went one for nine from the field and scored three points, well below his 16.4-point average.
That didn’t prevent the Trojans (12-6, 3-2 Pac-12) from beating the Buffaloes (10-7, 2-3) and rebounding from Sunday’s devastating loss at Stanford, when they blew a 15-point second-half lead.
Point guard Jordan McLaughlin scored 20 points, making six of eight field-goal tries and all four three-pointers, and guards Jonah Mathews (nine points) and Derryck Thornton (eight points) played well.
USC smothered Colorado with its swarming defense, scoring 25 points off 22 turnovers, and the Trojans blocked 10 shots.
USC led 44-41 with 141/2 minutes left before going on a 15-6 run that pushed the lead to 59-47 with 7:20 left. McLaughlin scored six points, two on a layup after a nice back-door bounce pass from Metu, and Thornton scored four points, one a fastbreak basket after his steal.
Metu swatted a baseline shot from 7-foot center Dallas Walton into the seats and blocked a dunk attempt by Lazar Nikolic during the decisive stretch.
Enfield said he was proud of Metu for “keeping his cool” when it was apparent the Buffaloes were trying to rattle him.
“He got pushed in the back three times, with two hands, so I think anyone would be frustrated,” Enfield said. “That’s very dangerous when you’re 6-10, running full speed with ball and you get pushed in the back. Thank goodness he was able to gain his balance and not get hurt.”
McLaughlin said Metu clearly “let his frustrations out” on that late-game dunk.
A layer of intrigue, and tension, was added by Colorado coach Tad Boyle, who took extra delight in Saturday’s 80-77 upset of 14th-ranked Arizona because the Wildcats are one of two Pac-12 programs connected to the FBI’s investigation of bribery and corruption in college basketball. USC is the other.
“Arizona recruits very, very well,” Boyle said. “USC has recruited very, very well. The two most talented teams in our league from top to bottom are USC and Arizona. So, hell yes, there’s extra satisfaction.”
Enfield told reporters Tuesday that he was “disappointed in Boyle’s comments and what they imply.”
The coaches exchanged a cursory handshake after Wednesday’s game, which ended with USC maintaining pressure until the final buzzer and calling a timeout with 21 seconds left and a 12-point lead.
“I just had some things to say to my team,” Enfield said.
Boyle, speaking to the team’s radio network, said, “That was a very strategic timeout from Andy Enfield, and I’m not going to forget about it, and neither will our players.”
vs. Utah, Sunday, at Galen Center, 5 p.m. TV: ESPNU. The Utes have an eight-game winning streak against the Trojans, dating to Jan. 12, 2013.
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