Boulder, CO (SportsNetwork.com) - The Colorado Buffaloes will use Saturday's home game against USC to gear up for next week's showdown with top-ranked Arizona.
The Buffaloes have had a dismal week. They suffered a 71-54 loss to Washington last Sunday and a 69-56 setback against 25th-ranked UCLA on Wednesday. The consecutive disappointments were not the biggest losses of the week however, as leading scorer Spencer Dinwiddie suffered an ACL injury during the Washington game that will leave him sidelined for the rest of the season. The now 14-4 Buffaloes, who are 11-1 at home, are coming off their first loss as hosts.
The Trojans have no major injuries to point to when it comes to their struggles of late. They have lost each of their first four games in league action, and five of their last seven overall. The most recent setback was an 84-66 rout at Utah in the first half of this two-game road swing. They are now 9-8 overall, including a meager 1-4 on the road. A return home to host California is next on the schedule.
Colorado has won each meeting between these two clubs since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, to pull ahead in the all-time series by a 4-3 margin.
USC shot 50 percent from the floor against Utah. However, it also turned the ball over 17 times and had nine shots blocked in the loss. Pe'Shon Howard netted 16 points to lead the way for the Trojans, while J.T. Terrell finished with 12 points off the bench.
In their first season under head coach Andy Enfield, the Trojans are still adjusting. They are ranked next-to-last in the conference in scoring (72.2 ppg) and ninth in field goal percentage (.451). They have managed to be the best rebounding team though (39.4 rpg). Byron Wesley (16.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg) is both the team's top scorer and rebounder, despite making his plays out of the backcourt. Howard (10.1 ppg, 4 apg) is the only other member of the team scoring in double figures, although Julian Jacobs (7.4 ppg, 4.4 apg) and he are each in the top-10 in the league in assists. Omar Oraby (8.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.7 bpg) isn't much of a scorer, but he is second in the Pac-12 in blocks.
Colorado clearly had trouble against UCLA without Dinwiddie, their main ball- handler. The Buffaloes were outscored 20-7 off turnovers, coughing the ball up 17 times in the contest. Askia Booker did manage to pour in 21 points on a 7- of-11 shooting effort, but Josh Scott (19 points) was the only other player to have more than five points.
To keep themselves in the Pac-12 hunt, the Buffaloes need to continue to keep up the pressure defensively without Dinwiddie. As a team they allow just 68.1 ppg and 42.4 percent shooting. The bigger challenge will be in finding a scorer to step up in Dinwiddie's place. Booker (13.5 ppg) and Scott (13.9 ppg, 9.2 rpg) can each light up the scoreboard with regularity, although Booker is only shooting 39.4 percent from the floor. The duo needs some help from the rest of the roster, with Xavier Johnson (9.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and Wesley Gordon (6.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg) needing to polish their games and become more than just rebounders.