KJ Simpson didn’t exactly break out of his shooting slump.
Yet as the sophomore continues to work his way through his first season as Colorado’s starting point guard, Simpson is beginning to understand there are many ways he can impact games beyond his long-range touch.
Simpson proved as much on Sunday.
Despite going 0-for-3 on 3-pointers, Simpson still was able to turn in a superb all-around game for the Buffs during an 84-62 win against Stanford at the CU Events Center. Simpson finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists, recording his seventh 20-point game of the season but his first since Dec. 31 at Cal.
“Basketball is more than scoring, and if I just focus on that aspect I’m not doing my team justice,” Simpson said. “I just wanted to be able to go down and rebound with (J’Vonne) Hadley being out. Get a couple more guys more touches and be able to get some steals when you’re scoring is not always falling.”
After that Dec. 31 game at Cal, Simpson missed CU’s next game due to a combination of injury and illness. Since then he has struggled to regain his long-range touch, as his effort on Sunday left him with a .129 3-point mark (4-32) in nine games since that one-game absence.
Simpson didn’t need his long-range touch against the Cardinal. He went 5-for-8 on 2-pointers and repeatedly got to the free throw line, finishing 11-for-11. That not only was the best total without a miss at the line for the Buffs this season, but it was the top mark in the Pac-12 this season without a miss.
Simpson raised his free throw percentage to .817 (89-for-109). The seven rebounds tied his second-highest total of the season (Simpson had seven rebounds four times previously).
“If it’s not falling, then just attack. That’s my mindset,” Simpson said. “I was able to be in positions where Lawson (Lovering) was able to set great screens for me and I was able to get downhill. Just being more patient, not rushing anything, letting the game come to me.”
LOB on a roll
The Buffs received another strong effort off the bench from Luke O’Brien, who went 3-for-4 overall and 3-for-3 on 3-pointers before finishing with nine points and five rebounds.
“Luke O’Brien has been playing really good as of late, even before J’Vonne got hurt,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said.
O’Brien matched a career-high for made 3-pointers, and he also went 3-for-3 from long range during the Buffs’ win at Stanford on Dec. 29. He is 6-for-6 on threes in two games against the Cardinal but 7-for-39 (.179) in the Buffs’ other 23 games.
“I thought our half-court defense in the second half was as good as it’s been all year,”
— Boyle, after his team outscored Stanford 45-23 in the second half while holding the Cardinal to a .290 shooting percentage after halftime.
CU’s 84 points was its highest scoring total in 14 Pac-12 games. The previous Pac-12 scoring high was 76 in a loss at Cal on Dec. 31. … Jalen Gabbidon replaced Hadley in the starting lineup. It was Gabbidon’s seventh start of the season but his first since Dec. 1 against Arizona State. … Nique Clifford went 2-for-2 on 3-pointers, connecting on multiple 3-pointers for just the third time this season. … Tristan da Silva is the first CU player to score at least 20 points in five consecutive games since Josh Scott did it in December of 2015. Da Silva also is the first Buffs player with at least 10 20-point games in a season since Derrick White in 206-17. White recorded 15 20-point games that season.