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KJ Simpson credits defense following Colorado’s semifinal win over Washington State

On Thursday night, the Colorado men’s basketball team held the Utah Utes to 58 points in the Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament quarterfinals. Twenty-four hours later, the Buffs held the Washington State Cougars to 52 points, the fewest they’ve scored in a game all season.

Colorado didn’t put up too many points, either, only scoring 58. But it was enough to give the Buffs a spot in Saturday’s final Pac-12 championship game.

That total of 52 also matched the fewest points allowed by the Buffs all season, and the Cougars turned the ball over a season-high 19 times. Washington State’s leading scorer was Isaac Jones, who scored only 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting with CU’s Tristan da Silva providing the clamps.

WSU saw its backcourt of Myles Rice and Jaylen Wells combine for 21 points on 8-of-23 shooting from the field and seven turnovers, largely being hounded by Pac-12 All-Defensive honorable mention KJ Simpson. Andrej Jakimovski, the Cougars’ sharpshooter, only hit one shot on seven attempts.

“I’m just proud of myself on defense,” Simpson said after the game. “Coach talks about it, it doesn’t take just one person, it takes a whole team, not just me. But I feel a lot of guys are going out there guarding tough positions. J’Vonne Hadley is doing a great job guarding the other guy’s forward position. This whole team (does). But for me, personally, I think I just have a chip on my shoulder not being first team All-Defense and going out there and proving everybody wrong, and trying to be a leader on the defensive end for this team.”

The Buffs have highlighted their focus on defense all year, but haven’t been able to show up consistently. In their last three games, however, they haven’t allowed more than 60 points in a game. They’ve stepped up defensively amid a push for the NCAA Tournament, which they should now be a lock for.

The last time Colorado gave up 60 or more points was against the Oregon Ducks, who scored 75 points in their home loss to the Buffs 10 days ago. Now the No. 4 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, the Ducks are the only foe standing in front of a third-seeded Buffs team riding an eight-game winning streak.

Saturday’s Pac-12 Tournament championship game between Colorado and Oregon will tip off at 7 p.m. MT on Fox.

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Story originally appeared on Buffaloes Wire