BOULDER — The Buffs dropped another.

The Colorado Buffaloes fell 71-65 to the #9 UCLA Bruins at the CU Events Center. It was Colorado’s second loss in as many games, bringing the Buffs’ record to 12-6. CU is 4-4 in Pac-12 play.

Here’s what you need to know:

KJ stakes his claim

The biggest development of the night was at the point guard position.

While Keeshawn Barthelemy started the game at point guard just like he has in every game this season, freshman K.J. Simpson was in Colorado’s closing lineup as the Buffs tried to claw back into the game.

Could that be a sign of things to come? Maybe.

Simpson played late into CU’s loss to USC on Thursday but was moved to bench in favor of Barthelemy in the final stretch. Barthelemy struggled, including missing a potential game-tying shot with seconds to go. Head coach Tad Boyle described the shot as “absolutely awful.”

Barthelemy’s struggles have persisted for most of the season, and Boyle’s patience could be wearing thin. While Barthelemy cleaned up the shooting numbers on Saturday (he was 2-2 from the field), he turned the ball over three times. And those three turnovers came in 15 minutes, the second-fewest minutes he’s played all season.

Meanwhile, Simpson’s 25 minutes tied for his third-most of the year. He deserved them, too.

While the freshman’s scoring was nothing special, he scored 10 points on 3-of-8 shooting, he contributed in a variety of ways. He grabbed seven boards, he dished out five assists and he only turned the ball over once. The most notable contribution, though, was locking up start UCLA guard Tyger Campbell.

Simpson’s stock is trending in the right direction and Boyle’s decision to let him close out the game may be a sign of a looming change to the starting lineup.

The Buffs can’t get over the hump

Somehow, Colorado gave itself a chance at the end of the game.

UCLA raced out to a 12-2 lead in the game’s opening minutes. By halftime, the Bruins led 43-28.

Given the deficit and the fact that UCLA is a top-10 team in the country, the Buffs seemed dead in the water. They couldn’t score. They couldn’t hold onto the ball. UCLA was hitting just about everything.

But the Buffs fought back in the second half.

Tristan da Silva and Evan Battey worked around the rim. K.J. Simpson earned and converted some good looks. Jabari Walker did the bulk of the work in the game’s final minutes, as part of his 19-point outing.

Walker dunked the ball with two minutes to go to cut the lead to one. But Bruin point guard Tyger Campbell answered back with a 3-pointer. Evan Battey made a pair of free throws and the Buffs got the ball back down by two with a little over half a minute to go.

But Simpson got to the rim and was unable to convert a contested layup. CU played the foul game but never had another real shot to send it overtime.

Still, the ability to cut a 15-point lead to one against a Final Four team from a season ago is impressive. Frankly, the Buffs had no business playing meaningful basketball in the final minutes but they clawed their way back with defense and rebounding. It was an impressive showing for a young squad.

The turnovers continue

The reason Colorado was in a hole?

Turnovers.

The Buffs have struggled to protect the basketball throughout the season and Saturday was no different. By halftime, they’d given the ball back to UCLA 14 times. They cleaned things up in the second half, turning the ball over seven times, but by then the damage was done.

Tristan da Silva turned the ball over six times.

Nique Clifford and Keeshawn Barthelemy each turned the ball over three times.

Lawson Lovering and Evan Battey turned it over twice.

The problem for CU is that the Buffs don’t have a primary ball handler. Nobody on the roster serves as a safe option with the ball in his hands. The hole was created by the departure of McKinley Wright IV.

Simpson stepped up tonight, stifling his penchant to drive into traffic without leaving himself any outlet options. But protecting the ball needs to be consistent for whoever the starting point guard is, not just something that pops up every other game.

Simply put, Colorado would have won the game if it could have kept the turnovers to reasonable levels.

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Henry was born in Columbia Falls, Montana and graduated from Columbia Falls High School in 2015. He earned bachelor's degrees in journalism and economics from the University of Montana in 2019. Henry joined DNVR as a remote staff writer in 2017, providing support to BSN's Broncos beat reporters. He interned at DNVR headquarters in the summer of 2018 and accepted a full-time position after graduating from UM. Follow Henry on Twitter - @HenryChisholm

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