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Buffs Welcome Fans Back, Roll To Exhibition Win

Oct 27, 2021
K.J. Simpson

BOULDER – Fans are back, and no one is more thrilled about it than the Colorado men's basketball team.

Playing in front of a CU Events Center crowd without limitations for the first time since February 2020, the Buffaloes rolled to a 78-48 exhibition win over NCAA Division II power Colorado School of Mines on Wednesday.

Eleven Buffaloes scored in the win led by 12 points from freshman K.J. Simpson. Classmate Lawson Lovering, nearly had a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds. Senior Evan Battey pitched in 10 points.

Mines, ranked No. 5 in the NABC Division II preseason coaches poll, was led by Ben Boone's 11 points. Kobi Betts had 10 points and five rebounds.

The announced crowd of 2,406, while just over 20 percent capacity, was modest for an exhibition but a wonderful sight for a team that saw only a handful of home games last year with a limited number of friends and family capped at 100.

"It was great to have the fans back," Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said. "Nobody appreciated them more than our players. We've all missed them. This was an exhibition -- it wasn't televised, it wasn't on the radio. Hopefully against Montana State (for the first regular season game), we can have this place rocking and rolling."

There were some jitters, understandably, for a group – aside from seniors Battey and Elijah Parquet – that haven't played in front of a collegiate crowd. Colorado struggled offensively from the outside – only 2 of 17 from 3-point range – but the Buffaloes evened it out with a solid defensive performance.

Colorado outrebounded the Orediggers by 20 (56-36) and forced 15 turnovers. Mines shot just 28 percent for the game

"We're going to need that a lot this year," said Battey on the team's defensive performance. "(Defense) travels always so, I've spent (five) years in the program, I know how deep rebounding translates and to win this game so I'm going to keep pushing it to my guys."

Colorado also helped themselves getting to the line. The second-best free throw shooting team in the nation a season ago, Colorado made 20 of 26 from the line.

Mines, on the other hand couldn't get to the line, hitting four on just five attempts.

Simpson added five rebounds and two assists on his stat line. He hit 4 of 9 from the field, which included a breakaway dunk in the second half that brought the crowd to its feet.

"I've never played with that many fans in an arena before," Simpson said. "The atmosphere was crazy. And just like coach said, I'm pretty sure the other freshmen felt it too. The first game jitters playing in front of a big crowd. I mean, it was an exhibition game, but I mean, it felt like a real game."

Colorado led by just six, 35-29, in the opening minute of the second half, but blew the game open with a 24-7 run. The Buffaloes began that run with back-to-back layups from Tristan da Silva and Battey followed by a pair of free throws from Elijah Parquet.

Mines forward Titus Reed hit a 3-pointer to cut the CU lead back to single digits at 43-34. The Buffaloes responded with the next 10 points; eight on layups and a pair of Lovering free throws.

With their struggles from the outside, the Buffaloes were still able to take advantage of their size down low with 48 points in the paint. Colorado shot 49 percent in the second half, with nearly everything coming down low. The Buffaloes missed all nine 3-point attempts in the second half, but was 17 of 26 inside the arc.

Colorado opened the game with a 13-4 lead in the first four minutes, hitting on four of its first seven shots. But the Buffs got cold quickly, hitting just 1 of 11 over the next six minutes. Still, Colorado was able to hold the Mines at arms-length, never letting the lead dip below six.