NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Less than 48 hours after a shocking loss at Grambling, Tad Boyle‘s Colorado Buffaloes rebounded to great effect with a 78-66 win over No. 11 Tennessee at the Bridgestone Arena on Sunday.
The Buffs improved to 2-1 with the win on a technically neutral ground but in an arena dominated by Tennessee fans who saw their Volunteers drop to 1-1.
The win was Colorado’s first away win against a ranked team since defeating Dayton earlier in the 2019-20 season. It was also the highest-ranked team to beat CU away from home since the Buffs beat No. 6 Missouri in the 1990 Big Eight tournament.
KJ Simpson led Colorado with a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds Tristan da Silva 14 points added and J’Vonne Hadley had five points and 10 rebounds.
Less than two days after allowing Grambling to shoot 50 percent off the floor in Friday night’s loss, the Buffs kept Tennessee at 25 percent shooting (16-to-63), including a 10-to-37 from 3-point range.
HOW IT HAPPENED: Colorado was two points behind at halftime before capitalizing on an 8-0 run early in the second period to take a 42-38 lead. Jalen Gabbidon and Julian Hammond III both hit 3-pointers to fuel the surge.
The Buffs then slowly increased their lead, getting solid play on defense and good ball movement on offense. A Ethan Wright 3-pointers put the Buffs 49-45 with just under 13 minutes to go and two Simpson free throws four minutes later gave Colorado a 55-48 lead.
The buffs continued to hold onto their defensive pressure. With eight minutes left, Colorado held a 57-50 lead and Tennessee was just 5:20 off the bottom during that period.
After a time-out, the Buffs offense then caught fire and extended a 14-point lead with a 9-0 run. Simpson started the run with two layups, Hammond followed up with another drive to the bucket and Tristan da Silva dropped a 3-pointer off the lead to give Colorado a 66-52 advantage playing just under five minutes.
That was enough to elicit a timeout from Tennessee coach Rick Barnes.
But the Buffs kept the pressure up in the final minutes. CU extended their lead to 69-55 on another da Silva 3-pointer with 2:40 to play and the Buffs hit seven free throws in the closing minutes to keep the Vols at bay and take the win.
Along with stifling Tennessee’s offense, the Buffs held a commanding 46-37 lead on the boards.
The Buffs were only 34-32 behind on defense at the break after an excellent first half. CU kept Tennessee at 23 percent shooting from the floor (6-for-26) and also held a 24-21 advantage on the boards.
But the Vols held their lead for most of the half thanks to a steady save at the free-throw line. Tennessee shot 21 free throws and made 17 in the first half, while the Buffs only shot eight freebies and made five.
Colorado had its own troubles up front, surviving a mid-half scoreless 4:40 stretch in which CU missed 12 direct field goal attempts.
But the buffs stayed in the game by playing good defense and hitting the boards. At 6:44 at halftime, UT built their biggest lead of the half, a 26-18 edge.
But the Buffs responded by keeping the vols at 2-18 and shooting down the stretch from the ground and getting a boost on the offensive end Lawson Lovering and J’Vonne Hadley. Both hit three-point plays to pull the Buffs to 27-26 ahead of a Nique Clifford Free throw separated the game at 27.
The Vols finally ended their field goal drought with a 3-pointer late in the half, but the Buffs responded with one KJ Simpson Trey on the buzzer to draw within two, 34-32, on the break.
NEXT UP: The Buffs open Thursday’s Myrtle Beach Invitational in Conway, SC with a game at 11:30 a.m. MT against UMass (ESPNU). The Buffs will play against yet to be determined opponents in the tournament on Friday and Sunday.
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