Colorado men’s basketball upsets No. 11 Tennessee

Colorado came into Sunday’s game against Tennessee needing a lift.

Fresh off a shocking loss on Friday where the Buffs looked lifeless against Grambling State in Louisiana, they traveled north to Nashville to take on No. 11 Tennessee, an SEC title contender.

It’d be a great litmus test for where they’re at, but a win? The odds of that, especially playing in Tennessee, looked long at best.

But Colorado’s defense was strong throughout, stymying Tennessee from three — holding the normally sharpshooting Vols to a 27% mark from deep — and the Buffs’ offense looked in sync, especially late.

There were times in the first half when it looked like Tennessee would seize control, most notably when the Volunteers extended their lead on a three to 26-18 with 6:44 until halftime.

But Colorado fought back, cutting the deficit to 34-32 at halftime courtesy of a KJ Simpson contested three at the buzzer, a perfect response to a Zakai Zeigler deep ball 10 seconds prior.

In the second half, the Buffs seized control and never relinquished it.

Jalen Gabbidon grabbed the lead back for Colorado with a three, giving them a 39-38 lead with 18:12 left, Tennessee? The Vols relinquished their slim advantage — and they’d never regain it.

From that point on. it was a combination of methodical offense, physical defense and strong rebounding that proved to be the difference. Tennessee couldn’t get the normally reliable deep ball to fall and trying to get things going in the paint didn’t work out much better.

Colorado brought a strong double team on most post-entry passes, forcing 15 turnovers in the process and leading to transition opportunities on the other end.

The Buffs held an 11-point lead with 5:38 remaining, and another Tennessee turnover ultimately led to the dagger.

And it was rather fitting that it came from the hands of junior Tristan da Silva. Thrust into a leadership role after the departures of Jabari Walker and Evan Battey this offseason, da Silva truly put an end to the game with a three from the top of the key with just over five minutes left, both extending the Buffs lead to an insurmountable 14 and signaling a changing of the guard for the Buffs.

Gone were Battey and Walker but in was da Silva, and the maestro from Munich proved he could provide magic in the big moments, simultaneously sinking Tennessee and righting the ship for the Buffs.

From there it was game management, and Colorado walked out of Nashville with a 78-66 win, with the momentum of a season suddenly and resoundingly turned.

Litmus test? Yes.

A test that had been passed and then some.

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Story originally appeared on Buffaloes Wire