- Associated Press - Sunday, January 15, 2017

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) - The last-minute play was drawn up something like this: Get the ball down low to lanky big man Chimezie Metu and let him do his thing.

His team showed confidence in him. So he showed confidence in himself.

Metu scored a career-high 24 points , including a go-ahead hook shot with 29 seconds remaining, and No. 25 Southern California held off slumping Colorado 71-68 on Sunday night.

“It feels really good for them to have confidence in me,” Metu said.

It’s not hard to see why the Trojans (16-3, 3-3 Pac-12) showed so much faith in him - Metu scored 20 points in the opening half with an array of hook shots, mid-range jumpers and powerful dunks. His previous high for a game was 21 at UCLA last January.

On his winner, Metu arched a shot over his defender moments after Xavier Johnson gave the Buffaloes a one-point lead on a 3-pointer.

“He played a terrific basketball game,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “He was active, he got into a little foul trouble so we had to take him out, but in this altitude it was probably a blessing for him to sit on the bench for a few minutes.”

George King had a final chance to tie it at the buzzer, but the ball bounced off the rim. Those usually go in on a person’s birthday, too.

“Supposed to, but it didn’t this time,” said King, who turned 23 on Sunday. “It did in seventh grade, but not this time.”

USC trailed by 11 points midway through the opening half and rallied back, which seems to be nothing new for this team. The Trojans have eight comeback wins this season when falling behind by nine or more points.

“We’ve been there before,” Metu said. “We just had to come out and execute and make some stops.”

King finished with 16 points and Johnson added 15 for the Buffaloes (10-8, 0-5). They have dropped five straight to begin conference play for the first time since 1995-96 when they were led by freshman Chauncey Billups.

“Our team is hurting right now,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “This is the time we’re being tested and we have to believe in ourselves, believe in the process, believe in what we’re trying to get done. The bottom line is we weren’t good enough tonight.”

BIG PICTURE

USC: This win probably won’t be enough to keep USC in the Top 25 after a 22-point loss at Utah on Thursday night. The Trojans are a combined 2-6 on their higher elevation trips to Utah and Colorado since those teams joined the Pac-12 in 2011-12.

Colorado: A disastrous start in league play has the Buffaloes in serious danger of missing the NCAA Tournament. They’ve made the tournament field in four of the last five seasons.

THIS & THAT

USC sophomore forward Bennie Boatwright (sprained left MCL) is about two weeks away from a return. He was hurt on Nov. 30 at San Diego. The co-captain is averaging 10.8 points in five games. … The Trojans are 1-5 in Boulder. … Colorado is 2-3 against ranked teams this season.

17 & 17

Colorado gave up 17 offensive rebounds and turned the ball over 17 times. Not exactly pleasing numbers to the Buffaloes.

“They don’t need to be screamed and yelled at,” Boyle said. “It gets down to simple little things you have to do on a consistent basis.”

LONG-RANGE STRUGGLES

The Trojans finished 3 of 19 from 3-point range, their lowest percentage of the season.

“It would be nice if we could make a few shots and make it easier on ourselves but we didn’t,” Enfield said. “Somehow, we have three conference wins with not shooting the ball great.”

UP NEXT

USC: Host Arizona on Thursday night in the first of three straight home games.

Colorado: At Washington on Wednesday night.

___

More AP college basketball: www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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