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Jan 12, 2024 11:45 pm

Colorado, USC enter tilt searching for answers on defense

Defense has kept Southern California and Colorado from picking up important wins in Pac-12 Conference play.

The Trojans and Buffaloes will meet Saturday in Boulder, Colo., hoping to find a fix on that end of the floor.

Colorado (11-5, 2-3 Pac-12) dropped its third straight league game after coughing up a 14-point halftime lead at Cal on Wednesday.

Eddie Lampkin Jr. scored a career-high 22 points and snared 11 rebounds, but the Buffaloes were outscored 56-38 in the second half en route to an 82-78 loss.

“If you score 78 points on the road, it’s good enough to win if you can guard anybody. But right now, for some reason, we can guard people for 20 minutes but we can’t do it for 40,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said, via CUBuffs.com.

The Buffs have allowed an average of 84 points per game in their five losses, and 85 points per game amid their current losing skid.

Wednesday’s setback dropped Colorado to 0-4 on the road for the season. The Buffs are 9-0 at home.

USC (8-8, 2-3) ended a three-game homestand on Wednesday, giving up a late-game surge to Washington State to lose 72-64.

The Trojans and Cougars combined for 19 lead changes, but Washington State’s 9-0 run to close the game made the difference.

USC has faced its own defensive struggles, allowing 80.8 points per game in losses. Against Washington State, the Trojans allowed 34 points in the paint.

“Maybe we should play more zone, maybe we should mix it up more,” USC coach Andy Enfield said of the Trojans’ defensive approach.

USC played Wednesday without standout rim protector Joshua Morgan, whose 2.3 blocked shots per game lead the conference.

Morgan is sidelined with an upper respiratory infection. Enfield told the Los Angeles Times Morgan is out indefinitely.

The Trojans also lost guard Isaiah Collier to a hand injury during the second half on Wednesday. The team said Thursday that Collier, a potential NBA lottery pick, would miss four to six weeks.

Enfield added in his postgame press conference on Wednesday that Boogie Ellis — who scored 18 points vs. Washington State and leads USC at 18.7 points per game for the season — is playing “at about 60 percent.”

–Field Level Media

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