The USC Trojans are operating with very little margin for error right now. On Thursday night against Colorado, coach Andy Enfield’s team lived on the right side of small margins and scored a must-have victory.
USC hit six free throws in the final 41 seconds of regulation, fending off the Buffaloes 68-61. USC moves to 12-5 on the season, 4-2 in the Pac-12, and sets up another must-win game against Utah on Saturday night in the Galen Center.
USC missed its big chance to grab a high-leverage win against UCLA one week ago. That failure meant the Trojans had to hold serve against mid-tier Pac-12 opponents to prevent its NCAA Tournament resume from getting worse. USC will need to pick off some bigger wins later in January. Sweeping this Colorado-Utah homestand is an absolute must if USC is to maintain realistic hopes of playing big games in March.
One down, one to go.
This was a typical Andy Enfield USC win: ugly, close, marked by great effort and strong late-game defense. What else is new? This is how USC rolls under its head coach.
The Trojans did their usual bad thing: failing to make 3-pointers. USC was 4 of 16 one week after going 3 of 16 versus UCLA. Again, this is nothing new for an Enfield team.
The Trojans did their usual good thing: working hard on defense. Remember when they forced 23 turnovers against Auburn? They forced 22 turnovers against Colorado. They finished plus-13 in turnovers in a game they won by seven points. They scored 20 points off the 22 CU turnovers.
USC’s defense overcame a familiar scoring drought for the Trojans, who went nearly three minutes without a point late in the game. Colorado reduced a 60-54 USC lead to 60-59. Drew Peterson stopped the USC drought with a huge jumper. Colorado committed a turnover in the final minute, and USC made six foul shots to seal the win.
USC next faces a Utah team which lacked star player Branden Carlson, who fell ill in advance of Thursday’s blowout loss to UCLA. USC is battling Utah for bubble position in the Pac-12. The Trojans can’t afford to lose at home to the Utes.