LOS ANGELES — Southern California held No. 12 Colorado scoreless over the final four minutes here Friday night, as the Trojans scored the final 13 points of the game to defeat the Buffaloes, 55-45.
USC blocked 10 shots and held Colorado to just 28 percent shooting in holding the Buffs to their season low in points in handing CU its second loss in its last three games, both on the road. It was just CU’s second loss to an unranked team in the last 36 games over the past two seasons.
Colorado overcame a horrific start in which it missed its first dozen shots and 16 of its first 17 to rally from 12 point first-half deficit to take small leads in the second half. The game’s first time came early after intermission, as buckets by Lexy Kresl and Jen Reese knotted the score at 24; a soon after 10-4 run gave Colorado its big lead of the night at 34-30 with 14:06 to play.
But the Buffs would endure nearly a six-and-a-half minute stretch without a field goal, though USC could only muster a 7-1 advantage in that window to take a 37-35 edge with 8:57 left. CU then countered with a 10-5 run to go up 45-42 with 4:01 remaining.
For CU, it was basically the “Wilson Show,” as the twins, senior guards Ashley and Brittany from nearby Long Beach Poly High School, played the first of their last two games in their home area and combined to score 25 of Colorado's points. Brittany scored CU’s last field goal at the 4:54 mark and finished with 13 points, while Ashley converted two free throws for the last Colorado points with 4:01 on the clock to end with 12.
Cassie Harberts led the Trojans with 19 points, seven coming down the stretch. She made two free throws that put the Trojans ahead for good, 46-45, with 3:08 remaining, and grabbed an offensive rebound and converted a layup for a 48-45 lead with 2:20 to go.
Brianna Barrett’s layup in traffic with 48 seconds left made it a two-score game at 50-45, and 15 seconds later, Harberts sunk another pair of free throws to all but seal the win for USC. Colorado came up empty on its last eight possessions.
Colorado (10-2, 0-1 Pac-12) had trouble on offense in its conference opener for a second straight year, having fallen to Stanford, 57-40, at home last January 4.
Southern California (9-5, 2-0), which opened the week and Pac-12 play with a 56-54 win at rival UCLA on Monday, snapped a 16-game losing streak against ranked teams. Unfortunately, only a sparse crowd of 372 was on hand to witness the defensive battle and USC’s first win over a ranked school since beating No. 24 Gonzaga in December 2011.
“We’ll learn from this, and we’ll be fine,” CU coach Linda Lappe said. “We have a great group of seniors that provides us with great leadership. This was one of those games where we just didn’t play well in numerous spurts, especially the last eight to 10 minutes.”
“The problem was we were out rebounded, they made great stops, and we either fouled or did not make plays,” she continued. “We were tentative, not moving into the right spots on our drives.
“Most of (USC’s) games are won on defense. We became stagnant, and they brought all their players on drives. We had no kick-outs, they’re big and long and blocked plenty of shots inside.”
“It’s time for us to regroup,” Brittany Wilson said. “It was great to play in front of friends and family, but I also do that in Colorado and they give me support as well.”
Colorado didn’t get on the board until there was 13:23 remaining in the first half, when Brittany Wilson’s floater from the lane got a friendly bounce and dropped through. The Buffs missed their first 12 shots before that one fell, but trailed only 9-2 at that point; USC was just 1-of-5 from the field with four turnovers and built the lead converting all six of its early free throw attempts. The Trojans also blocked five of CU’s first dozen field goal tries.
USC built the lead up to 12 on two occasions, the last following a Cassie Harbert layup to make it 17-5 with 9:05 left in the half. Those were CU’s largest deficits of the season, as previously the Buffaloes had yet to trail in double figures, trailing the most at Wyoming when the Cowgirls led at nine at one point.
It was then the Trojan’s turn to get cold; USC failed to score on its next 12 possessions, missing 11 field goals and turning it over three times, and Colorado used the 6:23 scoring drought to climb back into the game. The Buffs reeled off the next 10 points to pull to within 17-15, with Ashley Wilson scoring five of the points in the run.
CU would close the half on a 15-8 spree overall to cut the USC lead to 23-20 at intermission. While CU opened just 1-of-17 from the floor, it made six of its last 16 shots, while the Trojans weren’t clicking any better, finishing the half 7-of-27. Ashley Wilson had seven of CU’s points for the half, topping her season average of 6.1 coming into the game in just the first 20 minutes.
Colorado remains in the Los Angeles area to face UCLA Sunday in an 8:30 p.m. MST tipoff; the game will be televised nationally on the Pac-12 Networks.
Lappe already knows what CU needs to do ahead of that game.
“We’ll work on our overall toughness and rebounding, we need to pass it more efficiently to our scorers,” she said. “Our passes tonight were often low or high and not very crisp. You can’t score 45 on the road and expect to win. We have to make more free throws (CU was 9-of-16) and it’s tough playing from behind almost the entire game.”
NOTES: The Trojans overcame 15 turnovers and 31 percent shooting for the win … Colorado had just six turnovers at halftime but committed 10 after intermission … CU’s 20 points were also a first half low, as were the combined 43 first half points in a CU game this season; Wyoming led the Buffs, 27-21, in Laramie on Dec. 4 before Colorado rallied for a 63-59 victory … With the win, USC now leads the series, 5-4 … The Buffs are now 1-2 in Pac-12 openers, 1-1 on the road; CU rallied from 10 points down in the second half at Utah to win 58-52 in their first-ever Pac-12 game in 2011-12 … Ashley Wilson scored in double figures for the first time in back-to-back games in her career after netting her best of 14 last time out against Southern Utah; she had scored 10 or more only twice prior (in her first 97 games) … Kresl came into the game with a string of 16 straight free throws made, but missed her only two tries in the game … The teams not only start Pac-12 play against each other, they will finish conference play on March 2 squaring off in the rematch in Boulder.