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USC gives up double-digit lead in 78-67 loss to Colorado

Colorado forward Evan Battey, center, is trapped with the ball by USC forwards Bennie Boatwright, left, and Victor Uyaelunmo in the second half.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

The Colorado Buffaloes will take both momentum and the mantle as the Pac-12’s hottest team into the league’s tournament next week in Las Vegas.

Freshman Evan Battey and sophomore Tyler Bey saw to that.

Battey scored a season-best 21 points and Bey posted his fifth straight double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds and he stifled USC’s leading scorer Bennie Boatwright in a 78-67 win over the USC Trojans on Saturday.

McKinley Wright IV chipped in 17 points for Colorado (19-11, 10-8), which has won eight of its last 10.

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That’s the best in the Pac-12 and the best for a Buffaloes team since 1961-62, when they won nine of their last 10 regular season games.

That kind of late-season run used to mean something to the NCAA tournament selection committee; now it means more in terms of the momentum a team can take into its conference tournament.

“Now, people used to look at, `Hey, how’s the team playing now? How good are they today?“’ Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “Nobody talks about that anymore. It used to be, your last 10, how’d you do? That’s not even in the conversation. Who’d you beat? Who’d you beat in November? That’s the world we live in. I’m not going to change it.

“All I know is we’re playing good basketball as we head to Vegas,” Boyle added. “We have a conference tournament, which 12 teams have an opportunity to go and win. Somebody’s going to come out of there with an automatic bid, and it could be anybody this year.”

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The Trojans (15-16, 8-10) limp into the Pac-12 tournament on a four-game skid after Bey throttled Boatwright, who was held to 9 points — half of his average — before fouling out with three minutes remaining and USC trailing by six points. Boatwright’s streak of scoring in double digits ended at 20 games.

Three of his teammates finished with four fouls as did two Colorado players.

Nick Rakocevic led USC with 17 points and Jonah Mathews scored 13, but the Trojans’ hopes of an upset were dashed when they went cold down the stretch and were outscored 14-7 in the final 4{ minutes.

Despite inferior size inside, the Buffs outscored the Trojans 46-28 in the paint.

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“Both our big men were in foul trouble the whole night,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “We got dominated in the paint. Tyler Bey had 17 and 11 and Battey had 21 points in the lane, all in the paint. When you can’t guard the rim it’s going to be a long night. We have to get tougher and prevent them from catching the ball so deep. Until we do that it’s going to be a tough go.”

USC next

Wednesday vs. Arizona, in Pac-12 tournament, T-Mobile Arena, noon, Pac-12 Networks: The Trojans won their only matchup against the Wildcats 80-57 on Jan. 24.


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