LOS ANGELES — On a night when their two leading scorers didn’t produce, the Southern California Trojans won with defense.
Jordan McLaughlin scored 20 points and the Trojans beat Colorado 70-58 on Wednesday night despite Chimezie Metu and Bennie Boatwright shooting a combined 5 of 22 from the field.
McLaughlin made all four of his 3-pointers for the Trojans (12-6, 3-2 Pac-12). They led most of the game in winning their third in a row against the Buffaloes. Metu added 14 points, 13 rebounds and a career-high six blocked shots.
“Even though offensively we didn’t play great, defensively we were excellent,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “Chimezie was a monster inside with his intensity and his blocked shots.”
George King led Colorado with 21 points. Freshman McKinley Wright IV, the Buffs’ leading scorer at 16.2 points, was held to seven points on 2-of-9 shooting.
“I wasn’t myself, came out flat from the start and just couldn’t get in a groove for myself,” Wright said. “I feel teams attacking me now. I hear them talking about me on the court. They’re doing the best to try to prevent me from getting good looks. They’re trying to take me out of the game.”
The Buffs committed 22 turnovers and had 10 shots blocked.
“That’s 32 times we don’t even get the ball to the rim,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said, “which doesn’t give us an opportunity to make a shot, doesn’t give us an offensive rebound, doesn’t get us to the foul line. Turnovers that lead to layups, turnovers that lead to 3s are huge. It’s a really disappointing offensive effort.”
Led by McLaughlin, the Trojans pulled away in the second half after leading by four at the break. He had two 3-pointers, a layup and a free throw that pushed their lead to 55-45.
The Trojans were coming off a 77-76 loss at Stanford on the Cardinal’s buzzer-beating shot to end the game.
“You just got to move on after every game. It was good to get out here and get a win like that,” McLaughlin said. “Just being aggressive, my teammates and coaches tell me that every single day.”
Metu ran off six points in a row, extending USC’s lead to 65-53. He made four straight free throws before throwing down a huge dunk.
Colorado (10-7, 2-3) stayed within striking distance in the first half on the strength of six 3-pointers, which the Trojans matched.
But the Buffs couldn’t get a sustained scoring run going over the final 20 minutes, when McLaughlin and Metu were backed by solid defense from their teammates.
Enfield replaced struggling Jonah Mathews in the lineup with Shaqquan Aaron, who had four points, one rebound and three turnovers. Mathews scored nine points and grabbed three rebounds off the bench. “Sometimes you just need to shake things up,” Enfield said. “Jonah had been struggling with the four games in our league. He gave us great effort.” Mathews downplayed being out of the lineup. He’s started 13 of 15 games. “I don’t care,” he said. “I just want to win.”
Wright averaged 17.5 points against the Arizona schools to earn the league’s player of the week honor. He’s had three double-doubles.
“He’s proven what he can do so he’s got to play better,” Boyle said. “Every time he hasn’t played well our team has really struggled. We’ve never had anybody pick up for McKinley Wright when he doesn’t play well. McKinley Wright has picked up for some other guys when they don’t play well, but we’ve got to return the favor for that kid because we’re putting a lot on his shoulders.”
Colorado: The Buffs experienced a letdown after sweeping the ranked Arizona schools at home last week. The loss leaves them in the lower half of the league standings, one of five teams with a losing record.
USC: The Trojans’ defense has stepped up since allowing Washington to shoot 67 percent in a loss on Dec. 29. USC is 8-0 when holding the opposition to under 40 percent shooting.
Colorado: Visits UCLA on Saturday.
USC: Hosts Utah on Sunday. The Trojans lost their only meeting with the Utes last season.