After starting conference play 0-4, Colorado looked to regain its footing in the Pac-12 on Sunday against No. 25 USC. Although they ultimately couldn’t get the job done, falling 71-68, they did have one special fan in attendance to cheer them on, win or lose.

“Obviously, it’s very disappointing. Our team is hurting right now,” head coach Tad Boyle said. “This is the time where we’re being tested and we have to believe in the process and in ourselves.”

From the moment senior guard and former University of Colorado-Colorado Springs player Derrick White stepped foot on a collegiate court, 12-year-old Hayden Woelk has looked up to him.

Sunday, for the first time since White made the move to Division I, Woelk got to make the trip up to Boulder to support his favorite player, all while wearing his custom-made Derrick White jersey that he wanted for Christmas.

“He’s my hero,” Woelk beamed. “I can always depend on watching him if I’m down. If I need help with something, I’ll watch his highlights, and he’ll show me something that no one else can.”

From the first time he saw White play, Woelk knew there was something different about him.

“He had something in basketball that no one else had,” Woelk said. “He had that edge to win. He had the edge to find the open man. He had the edge to drive in and get the shot necessary. He had the edge to pull it from 40 (feet) if he needed.”

One day after a UCCS game, Woelk got to meet his hero, and thus began a beautiful relationship.

“They used to big UCCS supporters, they were always at the game supporting me,” White recalled. “After games, he would be shooting in the gym, so it just started with me messing around with him in the gym, just getting to know him and his father. It’s been great.”

Over the years, as the two have grown their relationship, White said that Woelk has been a great friend to have in his corner throughout all the ups and downs that define college basketball.

“It’s great to kind of be a role model for someone, something that’s kind of nice,” White said. “As a little kid, you look up to people, so it’s pretty cool to have him look up to me and I try to be a good example. He’s been a great supporter throughout my whole career.”

When White made the move to Boulder last year to advance his collegiate career, Woelk said he had mixed feelings about the change.

“It was kind of half and half,” Woelk said. “I always want to see him play no matter where he is, but at the same time I knew his potential, so I thought this was a good decision, even if it was not letting us see him every day like we normally did.”

Woelk said he’s been catching White on TV throughout the season, and while he’s been happy with the way his role model has been helping the Buffs, he believes there’s more to come from the senior guard.

“He’s doing good,” Woelk said. “He hasn’t had that edge that he had in Division II. I get that, because you’re playing against better talent, you’re playing against soon-to-be NBA players. You’re just not going to have that, but I’m always hoping that he’s going to show that he can drop 50 in a night like he did when he was in Division II.”

White finished the USC game with 10 points, five rebounds and five assists to help the Buffs, but it wasn’t enough. After the rocky start to the second half of their season, the Buffaloes came out ready to roll on Sunday in the hopes of reversing their earlier misfortunes.

In the first half alone, they shot white-hot from 3-point range as they finished with seven triples off of 11 attempts. That proved to be their only saving grace as the Trojans erased an early 11-point Colorado lead throughout the last 11 minutes – thanks to 11 CU offensive infractions – led by a monster performance from Chimezie Metu, who finished the half with 20 points.

At the half, the Buffs led 35-34.

Throughout the second, the Trojans picked up their effort on offense and after a lead change and five ties, they took over and wouldn’t let the Buffs gain the edge on them again. That’s not to say the Buffs whisked away on offense, though, as they stayed with their opponents up until the very end.

With 2:45 left on the clock, the Trojans led by as much as 67-60, but the Buffs weren’t ready to turnover just yet. Over the next two minutes, the Buffs staged a near game-winning comeback sealed with a three-point dagger by Xavier Johnson to give the Buffs their final lead of the game, 68-67.

But luck, as it would have it, did not favor the Buffs in the end as the Trojans went on to seal the deal with a 71-68 finish due to Colorado’s lack of execution down the stretch.

With the loss, the Buffs fell to 10-8 on the season and 0-5 in conference play for the first time since 1995-96 as the Trojans improved to 16-3 and 3-3.

“Of course we wanted to win,” White said. “We didn’t execute well enough to get the ‘W’ today, so hopefully we come back around and we get a win for [Woelk and his family) Wednesday. We just want to get a win every day so that hurts.”

The Buffs return to action on Wednesday, Jan. 18 as they head to Washington to take on the Huskies at 9 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.