After their tough loss to the University of Massachusetts on Thursday, CU upset Texas A&M 103-75 in their second game of the Myrtle Beach Invitational Tournament. In their highest-scoring game of the season, the Buffs’ great shooting and rebounding helped them soundly beat the No. 24 team in the country.
The win on Friday, Nov. 18, proved the potential of this young Colorado team. Plagued by terrible shooting and poor ball control on Thursday, CU responded by scoring 103 points in 40 minutes, as a team shooting 57% from the field, and made half of their three-point shots. With 40 points coming off the bench, the Buffaloes again proved they could compete with any five players on the roster.
Colorado got off to a hot start thanks to the shooting from graduate transfer Ethan Wright and junior Nique Clifford. In the first half, the duo shot a combined 5 out of 7 from three for 15 points and were vital in gaining an early advantage. With high energy coming after their loss to UMass, the Buffs fixed their problems from Thursday by finding easy shots and limiting turnovers. With a 24-point lead in the first half while shooting 52% on three-pointers, CU showed they could bounce back from a disappointing loss.
In the best game of his college career, sophomore K.J. Simpson led the Buffaloes with 30 points, seven rebounds, and three assists. While shooting 11/17 from the field, Simpson controlled the CU offense, commanding the game’s pace and finding open shots. Despite being one of the smallest players on the court, Simpson also showed great energy on defense, leading both teams in rebounding.
“We were all disappointed after (Thursday),” said Simpson. “We were locked in this morning. We wanted to play with the energy we should have had yesterday.”
After switching up the starting lineups, Head Coach Tad Boyle started Yale transfer Jalen Gabbidon due to junior J’Vonne Hadley sitting out Friday’s game with a shoulder injury. Gabbidon once again set the tone on defense for Colorado while leading the team in minutes with 33. Gabbidon and freshman Javon Ruffin, who contributed 14 points in the win, showed the importance of the next-man-up mentality for this Colorado team.
Colorado has already seen a few ups and downs in this early 2022-23 season. The team has a pattern of losing games they were favored in and beating nationally ranked teams. CU is still looking for a consistent rhythm as a young and relatively inexperienced team. With impressive wins against Tennessee and Texas A&M, and puzzling losses to Grambling and UMass, Tad Boyle and the Buffs are still looking for a dependable recipe for wins.
“We did a great job of sharing the ball,” said Boyle. “We had 22 assists — that’s what happens when you share the ball and make shots — but I told our team I’m tired of bounce-back wins. Now let’s build off some wins. That’s the next step.”
As turnovers have been one of the most significant issues facing Colorado to start the season, the Buffs combated that by constant passing and finding the open man. With 22 assists, CU players didn’t hold the ball very long, always looking to either shoot or find an open teammate. With excellent ball movement and cutting, Colorado found shots anywhere on the court, an issue they struggled with against UMass on Thursday.
Though their loss on Thursday meant that winning the Myrtle Beach Invitational was off the table, their win against A&M should prove that this trip was a success. While still looking for consistency in their losses to non-power five schools, the Buffs have recorded wins against two top-25 teams in the country in the past week.
As they show great potential as a team, the Buffaloes are still looking for what works on a game-in-game-out basis. However, as K.J. Simpson continues to play as well as he has — along with great play from junior forward Tristan da Silva, Gabbidon and the rest of the team — the Buffs will look at this game as a benchmark of play for the rest of the season.
“We wanted to be able to play our gameplay at our pace,” said K.J. Simpson. “It’s good to beat these great teams, but we trick it off in a game against teams we should beat. We have to be more consistent.”
The Buffaloes will look to finish their trip to South Carolina on a high note as they will play the winner of the Boise State and Loyola Chicago game. Regardless of who they play, the game will be on Sunday, Nov. 20, at 5 p.m. MST on ESPNU at the HTC Center.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Eli Gregorski at firstname.lastname@example.org.