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CU Buffs grind past Boise State in NCAA Tournament First Four, advance to face Florida

DAYTON, Ohio — The iron was unkind to CU almost all night long. But in March, an ugly win with a ticket to the next round of the Big Dance beats a pretty flight home to Boulder any day of the week.

Thanks to a double-double from guard KJ Simpson and clutch buckets by forward Tristan da Silva, the Buffs advanced out of the NCAA Tournament’s First Four with a 60-53 win over Boise State at UD Arena.

CU (25-10) will meet Florida  (24-11) on Friday in a first-round matchup in Indianapolis.

It was the third NCAA tourney win for the Buffs under Tad Boyle since 2012 and the program’s second since 2021.

With CU trailing 49-45, the Buffs’ Big Two of Simpson and da Silva brought their squad up off the mat, and extended a wild, roller-coaster season in the process.

The latter’s trey from the corner made it a 49-48 game, and Simpson scored the next four points — via two free throws and a runner in the lane — to put CU up three. Center Eddie Lampkin Jr.’s soft follow with 32.8 seconds left, released just before the shot clock expired, gave the Buffs a 54-49 cushion.

Wednesday was CU’s fourth game in seven days, and late in the tilt, the Buffs’ legs appeared to show some wear. Jumpers off the fingers of Simpson that he normally swishes trended short, and 50-50 rebounds near the rim on Boise misses were more often snagged by the scrappier Broncos in the second half.

The Buffs opened the second stanza on a 9-4 run that also served as one of their best stretches of play to that point. Simpson accounted for four of those points, and the point guard’s layup with 15:58 left in the game elevated the CU lead to 35-28.

But for much of the evening, anytime the Buffs started to build up breathing room, Boise found a way to claw right back into the fight. Broncos forward Cam Martin’s layup with 12:58 left capped a 9-3 Boise run.

Martin’s putback with 9:11 to go, the culmination of a da Silva turnover and a mad scramble the other way, knotted the score at 43-all.

While the Buffs’ offense stalled, O’Mar Stanley’s layup with 7:11 left put the Broncos up 45-43. Roddie Anderson III missed an open bunny on a backdoor cut, but Tyson Degenhart’s high-arcing follow was true, extending that Boise cushion to 47-43 and forcing Boyle to call a timeout.

If you liked your basketball games to resemble a rock fight, the first half of Buffs-Broncos was for you.

In a contest begging for someone who could create their own shot off the dribble, only CU’s da Silva obliged early. The senior forward led all scorers at the break with 11 points, and the Buffs upperclassman’s 3-point play gave CU an early 9-6 lead about six minutes into the tilt.

But Boise countered with a 7-0 run of its own, and a Chibuzo Agbo layup put the Broncos ahead 13-9 with 11:54 to go until halftime.

Both sides retrenched after a television timeout. On the first possession coming out of it, however, CU incurred a shot-clock violation. It wasn’t Virginia cold, but Boyle’s Buffs weathered a scoring drought of 2:16 midway through the opening stanza.

Luke O’Brien’s 3-point play with 2:42 until the break pushed CU’s cushion to 24-18. But the Buffs managed only one more field goal for the rest of the first half, and clung to a 26-24 edge at the break. The Pac-12 reps misfired on seven of their first eight 3-point attempts, while the Broncos of the Mountain West opened 1 for 10 from beyond the arc.

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