Colorado Men’s Basketball opened their season with a bang on Monday night. The Towson Tigers made the trip to the CU Event Center to kick off the 2023-24 campaign, just to get beaten in a convincing 75-57 Buffaloes victory. It wasn’t all smooth cruising for the Buffs, as they hit a couple of speed bumps in the first half. Despite that, Tad Boyle’s squad put on a show in the second half to put away the Tigers.
Before tipoff, Buffaloes fans finally got confirmation on what the starting five is going to look like. As expected, Tristan da Silva, KJ Simpson and Cody Williams started, while Boyle made the decision to go with J’Vonne Hadley and Luke O’Brien in a small-ball lineup. Notably, Tad decided not to start Eddie Lampkin at the five. Lampkin is still learning the system and is recovering from a back injury, so it makes sense that Tad called upon O’Brien to start instead. Plus, the Buffs don't really need to start a center in their new five-out system, not yet at least.
The first half of the game was a bit sloppy on Colorado’s end. The Buffs zoomed out to a quick 16-4 lead courtesy of six points by KJ Simpson, all of which came from driving in the paint or free throws. After that, the wheels started to fall off a little bit. The Tigers went on a 18-10 run due to some ugly Colorado turnovers and poor shot selection. There was around a four-minute period where the Buffs didn’t score at the end of the first half.
The players were having some growing pains with Tad’s new five-out system, as there was some clear confusion about spacing and who should be where on the court. The Buffs went 0-7 on three pointers in the first half and Tristan da Silva had no points, having only shot the ball once. CU had also turned the ball over eight times, which didn’t help matters. Colorado went into halftime on a low note, up just 28-24 despite being fifteen-point favorites.
Thankfully, whatever Tad told the team at halftime worked wonders. The Buffs came out of the gates with a vengeance. Colorado sprinted out to a 12-0 run to start the second half on four straight three point makes, two of which came from KJ.
This new system clicked in the second half. The Buffs were moving the ball with ease, dishing it out to players who had all kinds of space beyond the arc. This led to the Buffs drilling 8 straight three pointers, which is a VERY encouraging sign after last season’s shooting woes. Everything went right for the Buffs, as they were grabbing boards and nailing their shots. At the final whistle, the Buffs had managed to easily put the Tigers away by a score of 75-57.
J’Vonne Hadley was the star of the show in the second half, as he was flying across the court. Hadley proved himself to be a defensive rebounding powerhouse, leading Colorado with a total of eight throughout the game. The senior from St. Paul, Minnesota played heady basketball, dishing it out when needed and breaking away from screens when nobody else was open. The senior finished the game with thirteen points, nine rebounds and three assists. The legend of the secret Texas scrimmage Hadley continues on after his stellar performance against Towson.
Tad had high praise for Hadley postgame, saying that he doesn’t get the credit he deserves two separate times.
“J’Vonne Hadley was terrific slipping out of ball screens, you found him and he got downhill and made plays,” said Boyle.
KJ Simpson (unsurprisingly) had a great game as well. The junior point guard led the Buffs in scoring with in scoring with 22 points. KJ’s shooting seems looks to have taken a big step forward. Simpson took smart shots and hit 78% from the field and 75% from deep. He also went 5-5 at the line, just for good measure. Simpson had a rough end of last season, having to sit out of the Pac-12 tournament and the NIT due to a battle with mono. It’s great to see the Buffs’ standout point guard get fully into the fray so early in the season.
Despite putting up a bagel for points in the first half, Tristan da Silva kicked it into turbo mode in the second. The Naismith Trophy watchlist member got himself involved, scoring thirteen points in the second half. Da Silva didn’t let his slow start stop him, finishing the game with nine points from deep.
Newcomers Eddie Lampkin and Cody Williams both had relatively quiet games. The two finished the game with only four points each. Eddie netted a total of five rebounds and two assists, while Cody finished with four rebounds and three assists respectively. These two have only been in Boulder for a couple of months, so it’s important that Colorado fans be patient as they get implemented into Tad’s finely tuned system. Thankfully, Boyle said that he has no concern about Cody and Eddie going forward.
“I don't worry about Cody and Eddie. I really don’t. I just know that when they do get their legs on the ground and get a little more comfortable, look out,” told Tad.
Some other Buffs’ youngsters got to see the court, as RJ Smith and Assane Diop both played double-digit minutes. Smith looked decently sharp, utilizing his height to grab two rebounds. Diop also used his length to play some solid defense, as he put his body on the line to dive for a couple loose balls in his Buffaloes debut. Both newcomers obviously have a lot of learning and growing to do on the court, but they’re moving in the right direction.
The Buffaloes advance to 1-0 in the young season. It’s very important that the Buffs put away all their non-conference opponents if they want to accomplish their lofty goals for the season. Beating Towson was expected, but is still a good feeling nonetheless. The Buffs will now face off against Grambling State at the CUEC this Friday. Colorado has a chance to exact revenge on Grambling for their upset win over the Buffs last season.