USC gives up 16-point lead then loses double-OT heartbreaker to Colorado

USC guard Isaiah Collier shoots over Colorado forward Cody Williams at Galen Center.
USC guard Isaiah Collier shoots over Colorado forward Cody Williams during the first half of the Trojans’ 92-89 loss in double overtime Saturday at Galen Center.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Boogie Ellis was doubled over with his hands on his knees. He turned his head toward Colorado’s bench, where coach Tad Boyle jumped twice in the air and raised both fists as Ellis’ potential game-tying three missed at the buzzer.

USC’s fifth-year guard dropped his head.

The Trojans squandered a 16-point lead in less than 10 minutes against Colorado on Saturday at Galen Center, falling in double overtime, 92-89, in a game that symbolizes the team’s one-step-forward, two-steps-back season.


“This game, we competed,” said Ellis, who questioned his team’s pride a week ago after a 31-point loss to Stanford. “I felt like we competed at a high level. Gotta get a stop here, make a shot here to win, but the effort and the energy that we played with tonight is what we should look like moving forward. Just gotta come out with a win.”

Finally healthy, the Trojans (10-16, 5-11 Pac-12) were coming off a gritty win against Utah on Thursday that could have been the spark they needed to charge toward the Pac-12 tournament. Ellis, who has been hampered by a nagging hamstring injury, exploded for a season-high 30 points with five assists and five three-pointers, his most in a game since Jan. 6.

Freshman Isaiah Collier, in the lineup for a fourth straight game since breaking his hand, scored 25 points and dished a career-best nine assists with just one turnover, and forced the second overtime with a driving layup that tied the game 83-83 with 4.1 seconds remaining.

Collier set his career high in assists with a lob to Bronny James that gave the Trojans a 16-point lead with 9:52 remaining in the fourth quarter. The crowd’s largest cheer of the night came as Collier and James both mimicked finger guns toward the sky.

Colorado guard KJ Simpson celebrates after the Buffaloes' double-overtime win over USC.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Ellis, Collier and forward Joshua Morgan (illness) missed the season’s first game against Colorado when USC blew a 13-point lead in Boulder on Jan. 13. But having the team at full strength did little to avoid another disaster.

USC’s offense devolved into just hoping that Collier or Ellis could make contested layups. Enfield counted six missed layups during the last 10 minutes of regulation. The Buffaloes outrebounded USC 47-22, including a 23-9 advantage in the second half that helped Colorado score 14 second-chance points. The Trojans gave up the tying basket at the end of regulation on a dunk by Luke O’Brien with 3.7 seconds remaining.


“I always said you have to have big guys to rebound the ball,” USC coach Andy Enfield said, his voice downtrodden and his face blank. “That’s the first part of being a good rebounding team. Your bigs have to be good rebounders. Some of our guys struggle defensively, are better offensive rebounders than defensive rebounders. But it’s a team effort.”

Joshua Morgan blocked a potential tying shot by Utah’s Deivon Smith in the closing seconds to help secure USC’s 68-64 victory.

Feb. 15, 2024

No USC player had more than four rebounds.

The Trojans remain in 11th place in the conference standings, trying only to build momentum for next month’s conference tournament in hopes of stealing an NCAA tournament bid with an unlikely championship run.

“We’re right there,” junior Kobe Johnson said. “These close games, we gotta be able to do the little stuff, the little details, to clean it up and win these games. I still believe in us.”