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KJ Simpson puts up 31 as Colorado nips Stanford

Dec 29, 2022; Stanford, California, USA; Stanford Cardinal forward Brandon Angel (23) drives past Colorado Buffaloes forward Tristan da Silva (23) during the first half at Maples Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

KJ Simpson capped a career-best, 31-point performance with a go-ahead layup with 17.6 seconds remaining and two subsequent free throws, lifting visiting Colorado to a 73-70 Pac-12 victory over Stanford on Thursday night.

Simpson’s difference-making hoop came after the Buffaloes (9-5, 1-2 Pac-12) blew several opportunities to catch or pass Stanford in an uphill second-half climb.

The Cardinal (5-8, 0-3) had a chance to retake the lead one final time, but James Keefe’s 6-foot jump-hook was off the mark with 4.5 seconds left.

Simpson was fouled after grabbing the rebound and increased the Colorado advantage to three with a pair of free throws with 3.2 seconds to go.

The Cardinal rushed the ball up the court, but Michael Jones couldn’t connect on a desperation 3-pointer, assuring Stanford’s fifth loss in the past seven games.

Simpson’s 31 points were one more than the sophomore had against Texas A&M last month. He also found time on Thursday for a game-high seven rebounds and a team-high four assists.

Luke O’Brien came off the bench for 12 points and Lawson Lovering added 10 for Colorado, which won its fifth straight game.

Spencer Jones had a season-best 25 points for Stanford, which lost despite outscoring the visitors 22-13 at the foul line. Jones also had a team-high-tying six rebounds.

Brandon Angel chipped in 10 points for the Cardinal, while Maxime Raynaud had eight points to go with a six rebounds and Michael Jones finished with five points and a four assists.

After a 20-4 Stanford run had flipped a nine-point deficit into a Cardinal advantage midway through the first half, the hosts went nearly 28 minutes without trailing again despite several anxious moments.

The Buffaloes, down 37-33 at the break and by eight early in the second half, rallied within one point and had possession of the ball on six occasions but failed to tie or take the lead because of two missed shots, a missed free throw and three turnovers.

The seventh such opportunity finally paid off when Simpson hit two free throws for a 69-68 Colorado lead with 2:06 to play. But Stanford’s Spencer Jones countered quickly with two free throws, setting up Simpson’s late heroics.

–Field Level Media