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Men's basketball: Battered CU Buffs turn attention to Stanford

Feb. 29—Much of the discussion surrounding the Colorado men's basketball team has centered on what the Buffaloes have been unable to accomplish, in large part because injuries have thwarted the team's collective growth.

Yet as the end of the regular season draws near, head coach Tad Boyle has become more reflective about the season's trials. When all is said and done, he hopes the focus turns to how competitive the Buffs have remained despite season-long personnel issues.

The Buffs took another step in what they hope turns into a late-season surge by topping California 88-78 at home on Wednesday night. CU played without freshman Cody Williams (ankle) and backup guard Julian Hammond III (knee), both of whom remain questionable as the Buffs turn their attention to Sunday's regular season home finale against Stanford (7 p.m., FS1).

The physical struggles haven't been limited to the games missed by Williams (10), Hammond (four), Tristan da Silva (three), Luke O'Brien (two) and J'Vonne Hadley (one). Hammond has played through a back injury that likely won't be 100% until the offseason. Williams and Hadley have played through facial fractures that have both players sporting protective masks. And the sprained ankles suffered by da Silva, O'Brien and now Williams have been the sort that linger even after returning to the floor.

"When I look at this team — and I'll talk about it after wins, because I sure as hell am not going to talk about it after losses — but when I look at this team, and I mentioned that Arizona State game at Arizona State, Tristan played, he had 17 points, but he was playing on one leg," Boyle said. "He was probably 50% that night. But he gutted it out and he came back.

"I leave it up to these kids with these ankle injuries. Luke (O'Brien) has had an ankle injury. Cody's got one now. We've had a couple facial fractures. What this team has gone through, because it's 14 out of 28 now that we've been out one or two of our top seven guys. To do that, and to persevere and to keep fighting, we've lost some games that we shouldn't have lost. But then I look at Tristan at Arizona State playing on one leg and I'm like, dang we're right there. This team is competitive."

Against Cal, da Silva enjoyed one of his best all-around games since his ankle injury at the outset of Pac-12 play, posting a conference season-high 22 points along with seven rebounds and six assists (also a conference high).

Simpson, meanwhile, continued raising the bar in his standout season, scoring 27 points to become the first CU player in at least 27 years to score at least 27 points in three consecutive games. With 555 points this season, Simpson tied Chauncey Billiups' 1996-97 total for 13th among CU's season points leaders.

So lofty are Simpson's numbers, his season percentages actually dipped slightly despite posting well-above-the-curve marks of 2-for-5 on 3-pointers and 9-for-11 on free throws in the win against Cal.

Now the Buffs will turn their attention to Stanford, seeking to extend their win streak to four games ahead of what could turn into a critical final weekend of the regular season in Oregon.

"It's too early to talk about postseason. We've got a lot of basketball ahead of us before we do that," Boyle said. "But Tristan being healthy, KJ being healthy, J'Vonne Hadley, Eddie back, Luke ... those other two guys get back, and we can have a lot of fun coming down the stretch."