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Buffs Roll Past No. 24 Texas A&M

Nov 18, 2022
KJ Simpson led CU with 30 points Friday.

CONWAY, S.C. — Tad Boyle's Colorado Buffaloes have developed an interesting pattern this year — lose when favored, then knock off a ranked team in their next outing.

The Buffs completed the pattern for the second time in this young season Friday, bouncing back from an opening loss to UMass in the Myrtle Beach Invitational to dominate No. 24 Texas A&M in a 103-75 win in the consolation bracket.

The Buffaloes used a career-best 30 points from guard KJ Simpson to improve to 3-2 while the Aggies dropped to 2-2.

Colorado will next play Boise State in the tourney's fifth place game Sunday at 5 p.m.

CU's win over the Aggies came just five days after a 78-66 victory over No. 11 Tennessee — which came on the heels of a surprising loss to Grambling State.

True to form, the Buffs were once again a different team Friday than the squad that lost its previous outing. CU jumped on the Aggies early and never let up, building a 54-33 lead at intermission and extending the cushion to as much as 33 in the second half. 

Simpson was one of four Buffs in double figures, shooting 11-for-17 from the floor (4-for-8 from 3-point range) to finish with 30 points, seven rebounds, six steals and three assists. Reserve Ethan Wright added 15 points — all on 3-pointers — while Javon Ruffin had 14 points and Nique Clifford chipped in 11.

Colorado finished a blistering 34-for-59 from the field, including 16-for-32 from long range. The Buffs racked up a season-best 22 assists and also had a 35-28 edge on the boards.

Defensively, CU resorted to a rarely used zone and the strategy befuddled the Aggies the entire game. Texas A&M shot 24-for-60 from the floor and just 7-for-20 from beyond the arc.

"We did a great job of sharing the ball," said Boyle, who collected win No. 257 as CU's head coach, four away from tying the all-time program record. "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."

HOW IT HAPPENED: Colorado used a 15-2 run midway through the first half to take control and the Buffs never let the Aggies back in the game.

Wright started the surge with his first of two 3-pointers in the run and Simpson had seven points as Colorado turned a 14-12 deficit into a 27-16 lead with 8:24 to play in the half. The Buffs continued to build the lead, extending their edge to as much as 24 just before halftime. CU hit six 3-pointers in the final five minutes of the period, with Ruffin, Jalen Gabbidon, Clifford, Simpson and Wright all delivering from long distance.

Wright's third 3-pointer of the half gave Colorado a 24-point lead before the Aggies collected a trey with 25 seconds left in the half to cut the Buffs' lead to 54-33 at the break.

"We were all disappointed after (Thursday)," Simpson said. "We were locked in this morning. We wanted to play with the energy we should have had yesterday."

Colorado shot 18-for-31 from the floor in the first half, including a 10-for-19 effort from long range. The Buffs finished with 14 assists in the first period, with five different Buffs having at least two.

Colorado's defense, meanwhile, held the Aggies to 10-for-28 shooting and the Buffs also had a 19-11 edge on the boards.

"I think our zone defense kept them on their heels," Boyle said. 

The Buffs didn't let up in the second half. Colorado pushed its lead to 30 midway through the period and extended the cushion to as much as 33. The Aggies never mounted anything that resembled a serious comeback down the stretch as Colorado maintained pressure on both ends of the court until the final buzzer.

"We wanted to be able to play our game plan and at our pace," Simpson said. "It's good to beat these great teams, but in a game against teams we should beat, we trick it off. We have to be more consistent."

TURNING POINT: Colorado trailed 14-12 early, but used a 15-2 run to take a 27-16 lead, then built the margin to 13 two minutes later and the Aggies never closed the gap to single digits again.

WHAT IT MEANS: The win gave the Buffs two wins against ranked opponents away from home, something CU hadn't done since the 2012-13 season. 

KEY STATISTICS: Colorado finished a blistering 34-for-59 from the field, including 16-for-32 from long range …. The Buffs racked up a season-best 22 assists .. CU had a 35-28 edge on the boards … Texas A&M shot 24-for-60 from the floor and just 7-for-20 from beyond the arc.

NOTEWORTHY: CU's 54 first-half points were the most in a half against a ranked team since Colorado scored 58 against No. 15 Arizona in the second half of their Pac-12 tourney game in 2016 … J'Vonne Hadley did not play after suffering a shoulder injury in Thursday's game. Jalen Gabbidon started in his place ... Center Lawson Lovering had four assists, tying him for the team high with Clifford.

NEXT UP: The Buffs will play in the fifth place game Sunday at 5 p.m. against Boise State. The 2-2 Broncos lost to Charlotte in their opener and beat Loyola (Chicago) on Friday.