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Colorado's KJ Simpson (2) shoots the game-winning shot against Florida during the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Friday, March 22, 2024, in Indianapolis. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images/TNS)
Colorado's KJ Simpson (2) shoots the game-winning shot against Florida during the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Friday, March 22, 2024, in Indianapolis. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images/TNS)

Late-game heroics from K.J. Simpson advance No. 10 Colorado past No. 7 Florida in hectic, high-scoring affair

Florida's late comeback wasn't enough to earn the victory

INDIANAPOLIS — In what may be the most entertaining game of the NCAA Tournament so far, Colorado held on and bested Florida 102-100 on Friday. Colorado head coach Tad Boyle may have spoken for all basketball fans when he said, “can’t ask for much more out of a game in March than the one you just saw.” And to his point, this game was truly phenomenal, with great shooting throughout, an insane finish and everything in between.

This was by far the highest-scoring game of the tournament so far, with both teams shooting the ball phenomenally, especially in the second half. The highlight of this game, though, was the last few minutes of the game. Florida stormed back late after being down by 13 and even tied it with less than a minute remaining. Immediately after this K.J. Simpson hit a mid-range jumper to give the Buffaloes the win after a back-and-forth great 40 minutes of ballgame. 

These great 40 minutes started in favor of the Gators, Florida controlling the lead early and even went up by 10 less than eight minutes into the game. Coach Todd Golden said, “on the glass and offensively we did a pretty good job” in reference to how his team played well most of the first half. UF used a balanced offense to start out hot, with players like Walter Clayton Jr., Will Richard and Riley Kugel all having seven or more points but none with 10 or more. Florida shot the 3-ball exceptionally well in the first half going 6-for-12 from deep compared to Colorado’s three made 3s. 

Colorado, though, bounced back late in the first half, erasing the Florida lead and making it a tight ballgame. The Buffs did this with physicality and athleticism inside, Tristan da Silva and Simpson both had hot starts to the game with nine points each. Eddie Lampkin Jr. also played a major role, ramping up the intensity early and being the guy that rallied the team whenever need be. This first half ended in Colorado’s favor as, after being down by as many as 10, the Buffs knotted the game up at 45 going into the break. 

In the second half, Colorado started shooting the ball better and it showed with how the tables started to turn in their favor. Boyle said “our guys kept their composure” during the second half, which led to their run that gave them as large as a 13-point lead. During this CU run, Golden was called for a technical foul after he made it known to the refs that he didn’t appreciate a foul that was called on Alex Condon. He said that it was a “confusing situation” and that he “wasn’t very happy about it.” He later mentioned how he liked how his team responded, rallying late to cut into the lead.

Florida was great in the final five minutes of that game, pressuring on defense and shooting the ball with ease, Golden said that his team “hit some big shots, did a great job pressuring them, and obviously (Clayton Jr.) hit a huge 3 to tie that thing up.”  His mention of Clayton Jr. was definitely warranted, as Clayton had 33 points, including the last 13 for the Gators. His 3 tied the game up at 100 with just 10 seconds remaining and gave the Gators new life. 

This life wouldn’t last long, as Simpson hit the game-winning jumper from the baseline with two seconds on the clock, giving the Buffs the win. Simpson immediately gave credit to his team.

“Cody (Williams) threw me a great pass that was able to guide me and lead me in that direction, and just stepping up and hitting that shot,” Simpson said.

It was a truly special shot, as any game-winner in this tournament is special, but for it to be after this great of a game makes it just that much better. 

Simpson finished the game with 23 points, followed up by Lampkin Jr. with 21 in a very impressive performance. Da Silva also had a great game, scoring 17 points with five assists. J’Vonne Hadley also had 16 points and Luke O’Brien had 12, making it five players in double figures for Colorado. Clayton obviously dominated the box score for Florida, with 33 crucial points for the Gators. Will Richard had 15 as the second leading scorer for UF, followed up by Zyon Pullin with 13 and Riley Kugel and Tyrese Samuel both scoring 11. In this high-scoring of a game, it’s no surprise to have this many high point scorers, but even so, all these guys had terrific performances. 

Boyle summed the game up by saying “just a hell of a game in march, what can you say.” This was one of the games that will be remembered in the 2024 NCAA Tournament as an instant classic and for good reason. Credit to Clayton and his 33 impressive points, including the deep 3 to tie the game, but Simpson had the sensational follow-up, winning the game and advancing his team with that last-second baseline jumper. This matches up Colorado with Marquette in the second round, in what should be an exciting matchup. 

View the Hoosier Network's coverage of NCAA Tournament games in Indianapolis here.

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