Times-Call (Longmont)

Simpson struggling with shot

Buffs’ point guard looking to regain pre-injury form

- Prooney@ prairiemou­ntainmedia.com

It didn’t seem like a significan­t setback at the time. And certainly KJ Simpson has had his moments in the two months since.

Still, the numbers are impossible to dismiss. In his first year as Colorado’s starting point guard, Simpson’s season hit a gradual downslide when he missed the Jan. 5 home win against Oregon.

Simpson and the rest of the CU men’s basketball team still have a chance to make a year-end statement, first at home against Utah in the regular season finale on Saturday (3:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network), and then next week in Las Vegas at the Pac-12 tournament.

Yet Simpson hasn’t been the same player since that one-game layoff. And regardless of when exactly CU’S season comes to a likely end next week in Las Vegas, the sophomore guard will go into the offseason answering questions about his ability to be a consistent long-range threat.

“There’s nothing I think physically that’s holding him back,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “I think the big thing for KJ is the defenses he’s facing are now geared to stop him. That’s something that he has to adjust to. Just taking what the game gives you. KJ has been so talented and so overpoweri­ng his whole career up to this point, he’s been able to do that and have success. Well now, it’s harder to do that.”

When Simpson missed that Jan. 5 home win against Oregon, he was only a few days removed from scoring 25 points at California, very nearly rallying the Buffs to an improbable victory with 16 points in the final 2 minutes, 6 seconds. Two nights prior to that loss at Cal, Simpson scored CU’S final 11 points at Stanford, singlehand­edly turning a three-point deficit into a three-point road win for the Buffs.

Simpson finished with a career-high 31 at Stanford, and those two games in the Bay Area gave Simpson six 20-point games through the season’s first 15 games. Late in the Cal game, however, Simpson turned an ankle. As he attempted to come back the following week, he was struck by an illness that kept him out of practice and out of the lineup against Oregon.

At that point, Simpson owned a .354 3-point percentage on the season. But his long-range touch deserted him during his brief turn on the sideline.

In the 14 games since, Simpson has shot just 8-for-52 (.154) on 3-pointers, dropping his season percentage to .276. He has not made multiple 3-pointers in a game since that 25-point outing at Cal on Dec. 31, and he has recorded just one more 20-point

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