CU Buffs men’s basketball notes: Freshman KJ Simpson delivers in the clutch

Jabari Walker grabs career-high 13 boards

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ST. THOMAS, US Virgin Islands — Coming off the most frustrating night of his still very young collegiate career, KJ Simpson responded.

Colorado’s highly-touted freshman guard was one of the key figures down the stretch of the Buffaloes’ comeback 84-76 overtime win on Saturday against Duquesne in the second game of the Paradise Jam.

Simpson was held scoreless for the first time as a Buff during CU’s disappointing opening-round loss on Friday against Southern Illinois, but on Saturday against the Dukes he posted his first collegiate double-digit scoring effort while also dishing out the game-tying assist in the waning seconds that sent the battle into overtime.

“After last game, I took that personally,” Simpson said. “I felt like me not scoring or doing a lot of the things I should be doing, I felt like I left a lot out there that you don’t want to do as a player. Tonight, I just took it personally for the team. Whatever it took, and we came out with the win.”

CU head coach Tad Boyle doesn’t often point out plus-minus numbers, but in Simpson’s case, the one-night turnaround was glaring.

Simpson logged 16 minutes, 48 seconds of court time during the loss against Southern Illinois and recorded a minus-17 rating. Against Duquesne, Simpson was on the floor for a season-high 31:23 and finished at plus-14.

Simpson recorded 11 points and four assists, which also was a season-high. None were more critical than his feed to Tristan da Silva in the corner for the game-tying 3-pointer with 2 seconds remaining in regulation that gave the Buffs the chance to win the game in overtime.

Through the first five games of his career, Simpson has posted 12 assists against nine turnovers.

“KJ’s best game as a Buff, there’s no question about it,” Boyle said.

Walker gets it done

Jabari Walker has been off the mark shooting-wise at the Paradise Jam, but he found a way to make a huge impact anyway during CU’s win against Duquesne.

Walker went 4-for-15 overall and just 1-for-5 from 3-point range, but he nonetheless posted his second double-double of the season and the fourth of his career with 13 points and a career-high 13 rebounds.

Walker’s lone 3-pointer was a big one, as it was part of CU’s 13-3 run that opened overtime and secured the win.

Friendly fire

The Buffs were in transit to St. Thomas when George Mason knocked off No. 20 Maryland on Wednesday, but Boyle still was glued to the action via the game cast on his phone. It was just as well Boyle couldn’t watch the action, as he called it a “no-win situation” personally.

Boyle had folks near and dear to him on both sides. On the Maryland bench was head coach Mark Turgeon, who Boyle worked for as an assistant for years at Jacksonville and Wichita State, and assistant coach Danny Manning, the all-time Kansas great and a former Jayhawks teammate of Boyle’s.

Leading George Mason was first-year head coach Kim English, a former CU assistant under Boyle, and his assistant coach Nate Tomlinson, the former CU guard and recent Buffs staff member. And, of course, there was former Buffs wing D’Shawn Schwartz, now with George Mason, who lit up the Terrapins.

“I felt really happy for the guys who win and really awfully for the guys who lose,” Boyle said. “I care about both those (Maryland) guys a log. They’re both very important people in my life. I was happy for coach English and coach Tomlinson, and I felt awful for coach Turgeon.”

It was a career night for Schwartz, who finished his CU career ranked in a tie for 34th all-time in scoring (1,026) before opting to use his extra season of eligibility at George Mason. Schwartz torched Maryland for six 3-pointers and 24 points, both of which were career-highs. Schwartz hit five 3-pointers three times with the Buffs — twice against Dayton, at home in the 2019 NIT and again in Chicago in a classic overtime win on Dec. 21, 2019, and also against Georgetown in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last March.

Schwartz’s scoring high with the Buffs was 22 against Washington on Jan. 12, 2019.

“D’Shawn was great. He played great,” Boyle said. “We could’ve used D’Shawn (against Southern Illinois), that’s for sure.”

Notable

Monday’s matchup against Brown in the Paradise Jam finale (1:15 p.m. MT, ESPN3) will be the first matchup between the programs…According to a Twitter post from CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein, the popular-yet-polarizing broadcast duo of Dave Pasch and Bill Walton will make their season debut on ESPN for the Buffs’ Dec. 21 showdown against Kansas…Sophomore Luke O’Brien quietly turned in a solid game off the bench for the Buffs against Duquesne, finishing with four points, one assist, two blocked shots, and a career-high seven rebounds.