Buffs survive cold shooting, pull out First Four win

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DAYTON, Ohio — As an ugly game at UD Arena swayed back and forth, Colorado seemed likely to finish on the wrong end of it.

All-Pac-12 guard KJ Simpson couldn’t hit a shot. The Buffaloes continued to let Boise State grab offensive rebounds. The Broncos, 0-9 in NCAA tournament games, were far from impressive but had built a four-point lead with 5:35 to play. An elusive March win was finally in sight.

Colorado coach Tad Boyle called a timeout.

“KJ was really positive, which I thought was great because you need that positivity in the NCAA tournament when you go down four late,” Boyle said. “And we got five straight stops in a row.”

Stunning defense and newfound shot-making tilted the game one final time in Colorado’s favor. The 10th-seeded Buffaloes dominated the final stanza against fellow No. 10 seed Boise State, winning 60-53 in a First Four matchup on Wednesday night.

Colorado advanced in the South region and will face No. 7 seed Florida on Friday afternoon in Indianapolis.

“It’s just all about having short-term memory,” Simpson said. “You build that with experience. Sometimes the ball’s not going to go in the basket, but there’s so much more to basketball than just offense.”

Simpson rebounded his miss and scored with 5:18 left, which Boise State coach Leon Rice called “a huge, huge play.” Simpson scored 10 of his 19 points down the stretch, and Colorado held Boise State scoreless for more than four minutes.

“He always figures out a different way to score even if it’s not shooting,” center Eddie Lampkin Jr. said of Simpson, who added a team-high 11 rebounds. “If he’ll be a leader, we’ll win a lot of games, and that’s what he’s been.”

Lampkin, Colorado’s energy source in the post, had 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting, none bigger than a putback of an air ball to beat the shot clock and put Colorado up 54-49 with 32.8 seconds left.

“That offensive rebound was, to me, the play of the game,” Boyle said. “To go from a one-possession game to a two-possession game, just mentally, is really, really positive for the team that does that. I won’t say it’s demoralizing, but the other team, a little bit of panic sets in.”

Boise State dropped to 0-10 in the NCAA tournament, the worst mark among teams in this year’s event and the second-worst behind Iona, which is 0-16 (the team had a win vacated in 1980). The Broncos lost in the First Four for the third time.

They grabbed 19 offensive rebounds and flustered Simpson for most of the night. But their own shooting doomed them. Boise State made only one 3-pointer in each half, finishing 2-of-18. The Broncos missed numerous shots around the rim. Colorado’s Tristan da Silva used his length to fluster Boise State star forward Tyson Degenhart, while recording a game-high 20 points and hitting several baskets late in the shot clock. Besides Degenhart, other Broncos scorers struggled, too. Max Rice and O’Mar Stanley combined to go 2-of-18 from the field.

“You just got to keep fighting and every day get better, and if we can put on a better team next year, you go farther,” said Rice, who fell to 0-5 in tournament games, tied for the fifth-most losses by a coach without a win. “There’s always the next mile, the next hurdle, the next milestone, but it doesn’t mean that this team didn’t accomplish a heck of a lot because they sure did.”

Colorado won its 25th game, most in team history, but players aren’t satisfied.

“It means a lot, but we’ve got to get one more, though,” Lampkin said. “This was just the start. It’s a good win, but we got to get the next one on Friday.”

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