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Cal braces for KJ Simpson, streaking Colorado

Dec 29, 2022; Stanford, California, USA; Colorado Buffaloes guard KJ Simpson (2) reacts after defeating the Stanford Cardinal at Maples Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado looks to extend its winning streak to six games when it visits the Cal Golden Bears in Pac-12 play on Saturday in Berkeley, Calif.

The Buffaloes (9-5, 1-2 Pac-12) are coming off a 73-70 win at Stanford on Thursday, while Cal (1-13, 0-3) continued to struggle in a 58-43 setback against visiting Utah on Thursday.

Colorado’s KJ Simpson scored a career-high 31-points, including the Buffaloes’ final 11 points, to rally his team from an eight-point, second-half deficit.

Simpson, who also had seven rebounds and a team-high four assists, hit the go-ahead layup for a 71-70 lead with 18 seconds remaining. After Stanford’s James Keefe missed a hook shot with three seconds left, Simpson grabbed the rebound and secured the win by making two free throws.

“He was so good,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said of Simpson, who averages a team-high 18.2 points, 3.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game. “We were just running stuff for him because he was feeling it.”

Luke O’Brien added 12 points, including making all three of his 3-point attempts, to go along with six rebounds. Lawson Lovering scored 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting and grabbed five rebounds.

Meanwhile, Cal continued its disastrous season. The Golden Bears opened with 12 consecutive losses before picking up their first win of the season against UT Arlington on Dec. 21.

But Utah made quick work of the Golden Bears, as the Utes led by nine at halftime and by as many as 16 in the second half.

Cal was led by Kuany Kuany’s 12 points and eight rebounds, while Devin Askew, who averages a team-high 16.1 points per game, was held to seven points. Lars Thiemann, who averages 12.0 points per game, scored just five on 2-for-8 shooting.

The Golden Bears shot 15 of 44 (34.1 percent) from the field, including an abysmal 2 of 12 (16.7 percent) from 3-point range.

Cal committed 13 turnovers that the Utes converted into 23 points, while the Golden Bears scored just five off the Utes’ eight miscues.

“We didn’t help each other enough offensively to attack a defense as good as theirs,” Cal coach Mark Fox said. “I think we’ll look back and say we need to play a lot more efficiently on offense. You have to credit their defense — it’s been terrific against everybody and it was terrific tonight.”

–Field Level Media