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KJ Simpson, J'Vonne Hadley lead CU Buffs men's basketball past Utah

Feb. 24—Fast break

Why the Buffs won: CU shot .542, held Utah to a 4-for-23 mark on 3-pointers, and committed only four turnovers — the program's lowest total in more than 14 years.

Three stars:

1. KJ Simpson: CU's point guard went 10-for-15 with five 3-pointers, finishing with 28 points, four rebounds and three assists.

2. J'Vonne Hadley: The jack-of-all-trades did a little bit of everything, going 7-for-10 with 20 points, nine rebounds, and four assists without a turnover.

3. Eddie Lampkin Jr.: CU's big man went 4-for-5 from the floor and 5-for-6 at the free throw line, recording 13 points and seven rebounds.

Up next: CU continues the final homestand of the regular season on Wednesday against California (6 p.m., Pac-12 Network).

The Colorado men's basketball team still can't seem to shake the injury bug that has caused consistent roadblocks during the 2023-24 season.

It didn't stop the Buffaloes from picking up a much-needed victory, however.

CU put together a hot start and never truly let Utah back in the game, as the Buffs steadily pulled away for an 89-65 victory on Saturday night at the CU Events Center. Combined with UCLA's home loss against USC on Saturday, the Buffs moved into a fourth-place tie with the Bruins in the Pac-12 standings.

It was CU's sixth win in their past seven home games against the Utes. And it was one of the Buffs' top all-around performances of the season, as CU shot .542, held Utah to a 4-for-23 mark on 3-pointers, and committed a season-low four turnovers.

The Buffs played without backup guard Julian Hammond III, who suffered a knee injury at practice on Friday. CU also watched standout freshman Cody Williams exit the game with 7 minutes, 52 seconds left in the first half due to a right ankle injury. Williams remained in the locker room for the rest of the first half but returned to the lineup after halftime.

"It was just a great performance by our guys," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "KJ (Simpson) was KJ tonight. He was doing what he's been doing all year for us. J'Vonne Hadley was phenomenal, both offensively and defensively."

CU built a 17-point lead during the first half, but Utah used a 9-2 run before the break to cut the Buffs lead to 43-34 going into the second half. At that point, Utah guard Gabe Madsen, working predominantly against Williams, was 6-for-10 with three 3-pointers and 16 points. After halftime, Hadley drew the defensive assignment on Madsen and held the Utes guard to a 1-for-4 mark with just two points in final 20 minutes.

Hadley also nearly posted his second consecutive double-double, going 7-for-10 from the floor and 5-for-6 on free throws before finishing with 20 points, nine rebounds and four assists without a turnover.

"We made the switch to put (Hadley) on Madsen in the second half," Boyle said. "Cody rolled his ankle, so he was not at 100%. We started the game with him on Madsen and he had 16 in the first half. Then he ended up with 18. Credit goes to J'Vonne with his defensive effort."

Utah remained within 10 points with just under 14 minutes remaining, but CU scored the next nine points and never looked back, eventually extending the lead to 31 points.

Simpson put together another spectacular performance, going 10-for-15 overall with five 3-pointers while finishing with 28 points, four rebounds and three assists. CU hit 10 3-pointers for the first time this season in Pac-12 play, finishing 10-for-21. Utah's four 3-pointers tied its lowest total of the season.

"Credit to the team. We moved the ball side-to-side and we got great looks," Simpson said. "That's what you get reps up for. That's what you watch film for. We were just ready to knock them down, and it just happened to come our way. Credit to the rest of the team for finding us, and credit to me and (Hadley) for being ready to knock them down. It's just reading the defense."

UTAH (16-11, 7-9 Pac-12)

Br.Carlson 3-8 0-0 6, Keita 2-6 4-6 8, Bajema 2-6 0-0 4, Madsen 7-14 1-1 18, D.Smith 6-11 2-5 15, Erickson 2-5 0-0 4, Be.Carlson 2-6 0-0 4, Lovering 3-4 0-1 6, Wahlin 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-61 7-13 65.

COLORADO (18-9, 9-7)

Williams 2-4 0-0 4, da Silva 4-14 2-2 12, Lampkin 4-5 5-6 13, Hadley 7-10 5-6 20, Simpson 10-15 3-3 28, O'Brien 3-4 0-0 8, Ruffin 0-2 0-0 0, Diop 2-4 0-0 4, Dak 0-0 0-0 0, Carrington 0-0 0-0 0, Hurlburt 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 32-59 15-17 89.

Halftime — Colorado 43-34. 3-point field goals — Utah 4-23 (Madsen 3-9, D.Smith 1-2, Erickson 0-2, Bajema 0-3, Br.Carlson 0-3, Be.Carlson 0-4), Colorado 10-21 (Simpson 5-8, O'Brien 2-3, da Silva 2-4, Hadley 1-2, Diop 0-1, Hurlburt 0-1, Ruffin 0-1, Williams 0-1). Rebounds — Utah 33 (Br.Carlson, D.Smith 6), Colorado 32 (Hadley 9). Assists — Utah 12 (D.Smith 5), Colorado 19 (da Silva, Hadley 4). Total fouls — Utah 15, Colorado 15. Attendance — 9,075.