BOULDER, Colo. (CBSLA.com/AP) — Dustin Thomas finally recaptured his smooth shooting touch. Only took him 49 games.
Better late than never, though, and even better now since he was stepping into the starting lineup for an injured Josh Scott, one of Colorado’s top scorers.
Thomas filled those big shoes by scoring a career-high 17 points to help Colorado beat Southern California 86-65 on Sunday for its sixth straight win over the Trojans.
“Hopefully this can be a springboard and a confidence builder for him,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said of the 6-foot-7 sophomore from Texas. “When he shoots the ball well, shoots in rhythm like today, it gives us another weapon and makes us a much better team.”
A reliable outside shooter in high school, Thomas was brought into Boulder to knock down open looks. But he’s struggled throughout his career to find his range, going 7 of 40 from behind the 3-point line heading into Sunday and never hitting more than one in a game.
His shot felt effortless again against USC, making all three of his 3-point attempts as the Buffaloes (9-5, 2-0 Pac-12) rode his hot hand all the way to a win.
“It was a good day, for both our team and for myself,” Thomas said. “I’ve been in a little slump, shooting 3s late. Tonight got me out of that slump.
“Everybody stepped up.”
The Buffaloes used a 14-0 run late in the first half to break open a tight game. They never gave the Trojans (8-6, 0-2) a chance at a comeback as they hit four straight 3-pointers to start the second half.
Nikola Jovanovic led USC with 14 points, while Julian Jacobs added 11.
Both teams were missing big parts of their offense, with USC guard Jordan McLaughlin sidelined by a sore shoulder and Scott out again with back spasms.
McLaughlin hurt his right shoulder in a 79-55 loss at No. 10 Utah on Friday. Gone with McLaughlin were 12.7 points a game.
“Hurt us,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “It was a tough game. Give Colorado credit — they outplayed us.”
Scott missed a second straight game with a balky back, but appeared to be less bothered by it when he joined his team in huddles during timeouts. Boyle said he’s day-to-day and that his big man’s back is “much better today than it was yesterday.”
The lesson learned for the Buffs is they can win without Scott on the court.
“You never want any player to get hurt, especially one of your best. But when Josh went down, other guys stepped up,” Boyle said. “I thought our team responded well. We’re certainly a better team with Josh than without him, but hopefully we gained some confidence in each other.”
Askia Booker scored 18 points and Xavier Johnson added 17 points as Colorado improved to 23-6 at home against Pac-12 foes.
The Trojans went on a 7-0 run midway through the final half, but that spurt was ended when Booker lobbed a pass to Jaron Hopkins, who dunked it over two USC defenders and re-energized the crowd.
It was a rough two-game trip for the Trojans in which they were outscored 165-120.
“The issue is this is a young team and the guys weren’t ready for Pac-12 play yet,” Jovanovic said. “I feel kind of bad because we couldn’t steal one win. I’m going to look at it as a learning experience.”
The Trojans return home to host California at the Galen Center on Wednesday, while Colorado visits Utah.
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