Defense, late surge pushes No. 18 CU Buffs men’s basketball past Richmond

Fast break

Why the Buffs won: CU went 21-for-25 at the free throw line, including 14-for-15 in the second half, while holding Richmond to a 5-for-20 mark on 3-pointers.

Three stars:

CU’s KJ Simpson: The junior guard went 6-for-11 from the field and 9-for-10 at the free throw line, scoring 16 of his team-high 23 points after halftime.

Richmond’s Jordan King: King frustrated several different CU defenders and almost single-handedly kept the Spiders in the game with a game-high 23 points and seven rebounds.

CU’s Tristan da Silva: It wasn’t da Silva’s best shooting night (6-for-13) but he still recorded 15 points with a team-high eight rebounds.

Up next: CU will play for the Sunshine Slam championship against Florida State on Tuesday afternoon (2 p.m. MT, CBS Sports Network).

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — At some point, the shots were bound to stop falling. Certainly at the torrid rate Colorado enjoyed while winning the first three games of the season.

That night arrived on Monday at the Sunshine Slam. Yet the CU men’s basketball team still found a way to get the job done.

The 18th-ranked Buffs held off Richmond in a scrappy battle at the Ocean Center, finally pulling away in the late minutes to earn a 64-59 victory.

The Buffs will face Florida State in the title game on Tuesday (2 p.m. MT, CBS Sports Network) in a rematch of the teams’ battle in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament, won by the Seminoles. CU has put together its first 4-0 start since winning the first seven games of the 2019-20 season.

Prior to the trip, CU head coach Tad Boyle said the tournament would provide a test of the maturity level of his club compared to last year, when several missed opportunities away from home in November conspired to keep the Buffs out of NCAA Tournament contention. The Buffs responded with a sort of gritty victory they probably wouldn’t have picked up in November of 2022.

“We needed to face a little adversity and see how we reacted, and this team reacted like I thought they would,” Boyle said. “They dug in. At the end of the game, when you get stops and you make free throws, you give yourself a chance to win those games. We did both of those things tonight.”

In a defensive battle the Buffs made plays down the stretch, using a late 10-2 run to pull away. It wasn’t a terrible night from the floor for CU (.426 overall) but the Buffs battled through early-season lows in scoring, field goal percentage, 3-pointers made (three) and assists (nine) but still managed to prevail.

CU did a significant portion of its offensive damage at the free throw line, finishing 15-for-16 in the second half and 21-for-25 overall. Defensively, Richmond shot 50% in the second half and finished a solid .451 overall, but CU’s harassing approach along the perimeter helped limit the Spiders to a 5-for-20 mark on 3-pointers.

“That’s what we hang our hat on. We hang our hat on our defense,” CU point guard KJ Simpson said. “It was a challenge for us. Our shots wasn’t falling. It’s a lot harder when you’re not making shots. But that’s what we pride ourselves on — defense. We knew that was the only way we were going to get this win. We just had to get stops, and that’s what we did.”

Richmond briefly led by two points with 9 minutes left before the Buffs recaptured the lead with six straight points. The Spiders didn’t go away, however, and remained within a point at the final media timeout with 3:51 to play.

Simpson hit a pair of free throws after the timeout to begin the game-breaking 10-2 run that put the Buffs in control. Three different players — Simpson, Tristan da Silva and J’Vonne Hadley — scored during that burst, with center Eddie Lampkin also forcing a critical Richmond turnover before feeding da Silva for a layup.

“We had to grind it out, offensively and defensively, to make sure we stayed in the game,” said da Silva, who flirted with a double-double before finishing with 15 points and eight rebounds. “I feel like that’s what we did. (Our) guys got grit. That’s why I like playing with them. They’re really competitive. Stepping out with them every single night, every time we play, is a blessing.”

COLORADO (4-0)

Williams 3-7 0-0 6, da Silva 6-13 3-4 15, Lampkin 3-7 0-2 6, Hadley 1-4 4-4 6, Simpson 6-11 9-10 23, Hammond 0-2 5-5 5, O’Brien 0-2 0-0 0, R.Smith 1-1 0-0 3, Diop 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-47 21-25 64.

RICHMOND (2-2)

Bigelow 3-5 0-2 8, Noyes 0-1 0-0 0, Quinn 4-6 0-0 8, Hunt 1-4 2-2 4, King 8-16 6-7 23, Bailey 5-6 0-0 11, Tyne 1-7 0-0 3, Harris 1-3 0-0 2, Roche 0-2 0-0 0, Walz 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-51 8-11 59.

Halftime — Colorado 28-25. 3-point field goals — Colorado 3-10 (Simpson 2-4, Smith 1-1, Hadley 0-1, Hammond 0-1, da Silva 0-3), Richmond 5-20 (Bigelow 2-3, Bailey 1-1, Tyne 1-5, King 1-6, Harris 0-1, Hunt 0-1, Noyes 0-1, Roche 0-2). Fouled out — Tyne. Rebounds — Colorado 32 (da Silva 8), Richmond 26 (King 7). Assists — Colorado 9 (Hadley 3), Richmond 5 (Tyne 2). Total fouls — Colorado 11, Richmond 21. A — 2,153.

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