It wasn’t a pretty sight after Colorado freshman guard KJ Simpson absorbed a shot to his head late in the first half.
Simpson retreated to the locker room on wobbly knees with 6 minutes, 44 seconds remaining in the first half, and he was relegated to being a spectator the rest of the way as the Buffaloes returned from a 19-day delay between games to post an 83-78 Pac-12 Conference victory against Washington State on Thursday.
After watching his fellow freshman guard stagger to the sideline, Julian Hammond III was more than able to fill the void.
The former Cherry Creek star enjoyed the finest showing of his young CU career, adding a number of timely contributions during the second half as the Buffs rallied past, and then held off, the Cougars.
“That shows the level of stick-to-it-ness that he has,” CU senior Evan Battey said. “That shows the level of preparation he has. He wasn’t playing that much at the beginning of the season. It’s a big-time adjustment to not be playing that much, and then get thrown in and play a lot. He was ready and his mindset was clear.”
Hammond played a key role in the Buffs’ game-changing 11-0 run in the second half, recording a breakaway layup before finding Battey for a 3-pointer early in that burst.
Hammond finished with just two points but posted a stellar overall stat line of five rebounds, four assists, and four steals without a turnover in 13:42 of court time.
“Big-time minutes by Julian. Big-time minutes,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “Four assists, no turnovers, four steals, and he really got his hands on a lot of other balls. He really was active with his hands tonight getting deflections. Which we need, because our ball-screen defense in the first half was atrocious. It was better in the second half. He was as good as any guard we had in terms of getting those deflections. He played with poise. He didn’t play scared. Big-time minutes by a freshman coming off the bench that hasn’t gotten a lot of minutes this year.”
Roll it over
CU athletic director Rick George confirmed to BuffZone that the annual one-year extension written into Boyle’s contract once again was invoked at the start of the new year.
Boyle has his contract renewed for one year automatically every Jan. 1 as long as neither side — Boyle and his representatives, or the university — gives notice of their intention to opt out of the extension before Dec. 31. That opt-out has never occurred during Boyle’s 12-season tenure, with the New Year’s extension turning into an annual formality. The latest extension keeps Boyle under contract with through the 2026-27 season.
Boyle is operating under new financial terms this season that gave CU’s coach a pay bump of $625,000, bringing his annual base and supplemental salary to $2.425 million.
During his roundtable meeting with reporters on Thursday afternoon, George addressed the cancellation of the Dec. 21 game against nationally-ranked Kansas that left a faction of fans frustrated by an announcement that arrived less than two hours ahead of the scheduled tipoff.
“I know there was concern from some of our fans about the timing and when we released that,” George said. “We had someone that was sick. We tested him, and then we decided to test the rest of the team. When we got those results in, it was about 4:45. We wanted to get out something as quickly as we could. We were communicating with Kansas along the way. They knew where we were at. We made the decision at about 4:50 that we weren’t going to play the game. We wanted to do that prior to us opening the doors of the Events Center.
“We did it as quickly and expeditiously as we could. The day before we had no idea that we had anybody that had symptoms or was sick.”
Counting his four seasons at Northern Colorado, Thursday’s win was No. 299 for Boyle as a head coach. CU’s 12-year coach typically has downplayed such numerical milestones throughout his tenure, and despite the challenges of the past few seasons, that stance hasn’t changed.
“I haven’t scored a point or got a rebound or made an assist,” Boyle said. “I’ve just tried to recruit really, really players and good kids and help develop them and mold them into a team. Our staff deserves a lot of the credit as much as I do. Players win games. The kudos go to the players that have played for me and played for our staff, and kudos to the assistant coaches.”
“Eli Parquet played like an All-Pac-12 defender tonight on Michael Flowers. Did a terrific job. Kudos to Eli for doing what he does.”
— Boyle, on the defensive effort turned in by senior guard Elijah Parquet against WSU’s leading scorer. Flowers entered the game averaging 13.8 points with a .404 3-point percentage, but he went 1-for-9 from the arc against CU and scored a season-low seven points.
Thursday’s attendance of 5,543 was the smallest this season in nine home games. The previous low was 5,633 against Maine on Nov. 15…CU’s 17 assists was a season-high…Parquet matched a career-high with four assists…Boyle turned 59 on Thursday, and CU improved to 2-1 in games on their coach’s birthday during his 12-season tenure. The Buffs defeated No. 14 Arizona in the infamous “Hell yes!” game on Jan. 6, 2018 but lost at Arizona State on Boyle’s birthday in 2013…The Midseason Top 25 watch list for the Wooden Award was released on Wednesday, and four Pac-12 players made the cut — USC’s Isaiah Mobley, Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin, and the UCLA duo of Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Johnny Juzang. Colorado State’s David Roddy also made the list.