Askia Booker Breaks Trojan Hearts in 3OT

The Trojans battled gallantly, but couldn't stop Askia Booker. And despite a pair of career-highs (35 points for Katin Reinhardt and 30 points for Nikola Jovanovic), USC couldn't get the big shot when it needed it most.

One player isn’t supposed to beat a team by himself in basketball, but that is pretty much what Colorado senior point guard Askia Booker did Thursday night. Booker scored a career-high 43 points on 13-of-23 shooting to lift the Buffaloes to a triple-overtime victory over USC at the Galen Center.

Booker did it all for Colorado (11-9, 4-4) and USC (9-11, 1-7) had no answer for him. Even with a pair of impressive career highs from sophomores Katin Reinhardt and Nikola Jovanovic, USC fell 98-94 to drop its fifth straight game.

“We played well. They played well. And they won,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said immediately after the game. “It’s not fun to lose. But I can’t be mad, they played hard.”

The Trojans had opportunities to win the game.

Freshman point guard Jordan McLaughlin, who shot just 5-for-12 from the free throw line, had a couple of chances for redemption of his free throw woes. He missing a potential game-winning layup at the end of regulation and a jumper in the middle of the lane that rolled off the rim to end the first overtime. In the second overtime, Katin Reinhardt took a sideline inbounds pass and hoisted a deep three-point shot with less than five seconds remaining that bounced away.

Booker made sure USC didn’t get a chance for the win in the third overtime. He took over in the final three minutes, scoring eight of Colorado’s final 11 points. On back-to-back possessions, Booker received the ball in the midrange area with his back to the basket, turned and shot over McLaughlin to put the Buffaloes up by three with 2:12 to go. The resilient Trojans kept trimming the lead to one point, but never were able to get back even because of Booker.

It was the same all night. When Booker was putting the ball in the basket, USC was trailing and when he wasn’t scoring, the Trojans were making a run. The game ebbed and flowed based on Booker buckets.

His 43 points scored were the fourth-most in Colorado school history, finishing just four points shy of the school record. While Booker did have six turnovers, he also had three assists and three steals.

“It was probably his best [game],” Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said. “It was on the road and especially doing it in LA, where he’s from, is special.”

The Trojans built a 10-point lead a little over 13 minutes into the game before Booker scored his first points of the game. But that’s when he decided to take over. He went on a 10-3 run all by himself and got the Buffs right back in the game, trimming the lead down to three points. Booker finished with 14 first-half points and the Buffaloes trailed by only one, 38-37, at the break.

Reinhardt and Jovanovic led the Trojans in the first half, combining for 30 points. Thirty points became the standard for both players on the night.

Reinhardt finished with 35 points on 12-for-27 shooting before fouling out in the third overtime. He shot 9-for-18 from behind the three-point arc — tying the USC record for 3-pointers made set by Anthony Pendleton against Long Beach State in 1987.

"We lost, so 35 points didn't matter. I feel terrible," Reinhardt said. "I feel I let the team down when I fouled out. I didn't even know I had four fouls."

Jovanovic was a beast in the paint, scoring 30 points to push his streak of games scoring in double figures to 15 in a row. He bested his previous career high by seven points and came one rebound shy of a double-double. Jovanovic made the game-tying bucket in regulation, going with a left-handed turnaround hook that he banked in from the left block.

The Serbian power forward also hit a potential game-winner with 19 seconds remaining in the second overtime after he grabbed an offensive rebound and scored off the glass, despite Wesley Gordon having a hold of Jovanovic’s right arm as he tried to rise to shoot for the left block. Jovanovic made the bucket and Gordon was whistled for the foul, but Jovanovic clanked the free throw -- his only charity stripe miss of the night.

The miss gave Colorado the option of going for the tie or the win rather than being forced to hoist a 3-pointer. Instead of having to run something behind the three-point line, the Buffaloes gave the ball to Askia Booker, who slashed into the lane and shot a floater over the top of Darion Clark for the game-tying basket with less than 10 seconds remaining. (seen above)

USC returns to action on Sunday morning when it hosts No. 11 Utah (16-4, 6-2) at 11:30 a.m. PST. The Buffaloes next face off with UCLA, who defeated Utah by 10 points on Thursday night.

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