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Men's basketball notes: CU Buffs achieved lofty standards despite injury woes

Mar. 24—INDIANAPOLIS — The 2023-24 campaign presented unique challenges for Tad Boyle in his 14th season as the head coach of the Colorado men's basketball team.

Boyle had to assimilate the talents of a likely NBA lottery pick in freshman Cody Williams, only to watch that talent get sidelined by injury for a large chunk of the season. He had to provide a comfort zone for newcomer Eddie Lampkin Jr., who arrived at CU as a transfer from TCU amid an array of personal trials.

And then there were those injuries. Boyle and the Buffs have dealt with major injuries before, most notably season-sending setbacks suffered at different stages of the calendar by Spencer Dinwiddie, Xavier Johnson and Dallas Walton. This season presented a different sort of challenge.

Williams (13 games), Julian Hammond III (13), Tristan da Silva (three), Luke O'Brien (two) and J'Vonne Hadley (one) all missed time at one point or another. And that list doesn't include the season-ending setback suffered by redshirt freshman guard RJ Smith after seven games.

The Buffs played with all of their top seven rotation players (Williams, Lampkin, Hammond, da Silva, O'Brien, Hadley, and KJ Simpson) in just 14 of 37 games. They missed two of those players in nine of those games. Despite those challenges, the Buffs tied for their best finish in the Pac-12 at third place, won two games in a single NCAA Tournament for the first time in 69 years, and set a program record for wins with 26.

"Injuries are part of the game. Everybody's got them," Boyle said. "We never used it as an excuse. It's the leadership, it's the no-excuse mentality that these players played with all season long. Part of the pride that I have in this year's team in winning 26 games is overcoming the things we that had to overcome as a group. Not just individually. That's what a team does. That's why I love this team."

Quotable

"That's about as good of a 10-seed as I've ever seen in my life. When we started watching tape a couple days ago and we said, 'Who made these guys a 10-seed?'" — Marquette coach Shaka Smart, after his team eliminated the Buffs from the NCAA Tournament with an 81-77 second-round victory.

Final tally

The prolific offense of the '23-24 Buffs landed the squad on a number of all-time lists in program history.

In addition to the wins record, CU's final scoring average of 79.3 ranks seventh all-time. The Buffs were only the second group in team history to surpass 1,000 total field goals, with the final tally of 1,049 trailing only Boyle's first CU team of 2010-11 (1,058). The Buffs also set a team record with a .391 3-point percentage, while also finishing second in team history in free throw percentage (.784), third in overall field goal percentage (.494), and first in total assists (600).

Individually, da Silva finishes his career at No. 13 on the all-time scoring list (1,456) and ninth in made 3-pointers (150). Da Silva's career 3-point percentage of .386 tied Spencer Dinwiddie for fifth all-time.

It remains to be seen if Simpson has played his final game at CU, but he finished the campaign at No. 15 on the all-time scoring list (1,424). He ranks ninth all-time in assists (378), 13th in steals (129) and tied for 11th with McKinley Wright IV in made 3-pointers (133).

Simpson also set the program's single-season free throw percentage record at .876, topping Cory Higgins' previous record of .866 in 2010-11. Simpson also ranks fourth with a season 3-point percentage of .434. Simpson's 728 points this season fell one short of matching Cliff Meely's 1970-71 total for second all-time, and among his other season marks he ranks eighth in made 3-pointers (79), third in total assists (181), tied for 12th in steals (60) and first in minutes played (1,298).

The CU record book requires 145 free throw attempts to crack the single season list, so J'Vonne Hadley fell just short by going 115-for-137. But his .839 mark would rank sixth among CU's season leaders.

Notable

CU posted 21 assists against Marquette for its ninth 20-assist game of the season. ... Hadley tied a career high with four steals against Marquette. ... Lampkin's 394 total points this season is the sixth-most by a transfer in team history. ... The 11 assists recorded by Marquette's Tyler Kolek tied for the most by a CU foe this season. Colorado State's Isaiah Stevens also recorded 11 in a Rams win in Fort Collins on Nov. 29.