Well, it wasn’t pretty that is for sure.
The Colorado basketball team was able to beat USC 59-56 in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament, but the Buffs did not look like a tournament team. They struggled mightily on offense all game and had 9 turnovers in the first half. Granted, USC played very well for a team that only had two victories in the Pac-12.
Colorado was able to win the game with a 13-1 run late in the second half. Up to that point, USC was able to keep it close and at times even led during the game. Even with the second half run, USC still had a chance to send the game into overtime with a Byron Wesley three pointer. The shot, fortunately, clanked off the back of the rim.
Askia Booker was the clear leader for the Buffs. He led them with 21 points, while adding 7 rebounds and 4 assists. This was a very clutch performance for the junior. He only had one turnover, while the rest of the team had 12 total. He kept Colorado in the game with a number of big plays in the second half. He was able to get out on the fast break and that led to a number of easy baskets. Booker continued to get to the rim by either finishing himself or dishing it to Josh Scott or Xavier Johnson.
Both teams were sluggish throughout the game. This worked in favor of USC because they were the inferior team. The Buffs could not get anything going with their best interior player, Josh Scott. Scott was shut down by opposing center Omar Oraby. Oraby used his seven-foot frame to block two shots and shut down Scott. Oraby held him to 4-14 shooting, well below his season average of 53.5%.
Scott contributed in other facets of the game though. He played strong interior defense and was able to grab 9 rebounds. One of the keys of the game was rebounding. Colorado out rebounded USC 38 to 27. The Buffs continued to crash the boards and create second chance opportunities for themselves.
Colorado did not play like a team worthy of an NCAA tournament bid. They relied on Askia Booker to distribute and score. Booker is an up and down player, as most of us Colorado fans know. He is not capable of doing this night in and night out. Scott and Xavier Johnson will need to pick up the scoring load if the Buffs want to advance further in the Pac-12 tournament.
Cal will punish the Buffs if they have as many turnovers. They were able to win today because USC was not able to capitalize on their mistakes. Justin Cobbs and company are a whole lot better than the Trojans. Cal is also fighting for their tournament lives because of their weak resume.
Colorado is a lock for the Big Dance, according to ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi. They should use this tournament as a place to improve and play in a one and done format. Colorado has shown in the past that success in the Pac-12 tournament will lead to success in the Big Dance. If Colorado can win the Pac-12 championship, they will go into March Madness with tons of momentum on their side. And we all know the hot teams do well in March.