CU Buffs hold off Washington in Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament opener

Colorado came into the first round of the Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament without guard KJ Simpson and set to face a No. 8 seed Washington team that beat the No. 9 Buffs twice in the regular season.

The odds weren’t in the Buffs’ favor going in, but they defied those odds on their way to a 74-68 win over the Huskies to advance to the quarterfinals.

The win wasn’t without its challenges, however.

Colorado wasn’t fully in sync offensively to begin the game, but nine points from junior forward Tristan da Silva combined with a great defensive effort that kept Washington at 27% from the field in the first half gave the Buffs a 28-20 advantage at the break.

In the second half, Washington’s offense stepped up to give the Huskies their first lead at 47-46 with 9:45 remaining. From there, it was largely a back-and-forth game until Luke O’Brien made a three from the top of the key to give Colorado a 69-66 lead with 59 seconds left. After that, a Julian Hammond III shot from the right elbow extended the Buffs’ advantage back up to five.

Free throws followed, and Colorado ended day one of the Pac-12 Tournament with a victory.

Hammond filled in nicely for Simpson, putting up a career-high 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including a 2-of-3 mark from three.

Up next for Colorado is the No. 1 seeded UCLA Bruins on Thursday at 1 p.m. MT on the Pac-12 Network. The Bruins will be without the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in guard Jaylen Clark, who is out for the remainder of the season with an Achilles injury.

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