USC at Colorado
When: Thursday, 6 p.m.
Where: CU Events Center (Boulder, Colo.)
TV/Radio: ESPN 2/AM 790
Records: USC 19-8, 11-5 in Pac-12; 15-13, 7-10
Last meeting: USC held on for a 68-61 win over the Buffs at Galen Center. Colorado got within one with two minutes to play, but the Trojans hit their free throws and forced turnovers to hold on for the win behind Drew Peterson’s 15 points.
USC last result: Boogie Ellis scored a career-high 33 points and distributed a career-high seven assists in the Trojans’ 85-75 win over Stanford. Ellis was aided by a 21-point, seven-rebound performance by Drew Peterson and the return of center Joshua Morgan (ankle) and guard Reese Dixon-Waters (leg) after four-game absences.
Colorado last result: The Buffs tried to fight back, but did not have enough firepower to get close on the road against Arizona, losing 78-68. Colorado was dominated in the paint as Arizona’s starting bigs Oumar Ballo and Azoulas Tubelis combined for 31 points and 20 rebounds. The way Colorado shot the ball (38.7% from the floor, 29.2% from 3) did not allow the Buffs to overcome this disadvantage.
Matchup to watch: Morgan and Vincent Iwuchukwu vs. Tristan da Silva. The Buffs proved vulnerable in the paint against Arizona. Morgan and Iwuchukwu will have to look to get involved in the USC offense early and often on Thursday to put pressure on Colorado and its best player, da Silva, and try to get him into foul trouble. Morgan looked solid on defense in his return from an ankle sprain but wasn’t heavily involved on offense, while Iwuchukwu had one of his quieter nights. USC will need them if it can steal a big road victory.
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USC trend to watch: In consecutive games, USC has posted season highs in 3-point shooting (12 against Cal, 13 against Stanford). But in the game prior, USC made 1 of 14 against Oregon State. The Trojans’ season has been defined by fluctuations in shooting. Some nights, USC has its touch, others it can’t hit anything, with leading-scorers Ellis and Peterson going through the same pattern. So can USC start to make its shots consistently? We’ll see how the Trojans do against Colorado.
March resume check: The Trojans are currently 55th in the NET rankings and an 11-seed in both ESPN and CBS’s bracket projections, requiring a play-in game in the First Four to qualify for the main NCAA tournament. Against 61st Colorado, USC has a Quadrant 1 opportunity on Thursday to boost its resume.