NASHVILLE, Tenn. | KJ Simpson had 23 points and 10 rebounds, both career highs for the sophomore, to lead Colorado to an 78-66 upset victory over No. 11 Tennessee on Sunday.
Tristan de Silva added 14 points for the Buffaloes, who shot 43.5% from the field, compared with the Volunteers’ 25.4%.
“Today was about Colorado, and (Simpson) was terrific,” Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle said.
“KJ I thought really took the game in his own hands down the stretch there and really controlled the tempo. The 23 points, he’ll have other nights like that for sure, but the 10 rebounds were fantastic.”
Josiah-Jordan James and Tyreke Key led Tennessee with 15 points apiece.
“We definitely didn’t come into this game with the right mindset,” James said. “This is a good lesson for us. It’s a long basketball season. Of course I’m disappointed and upset that we lost, but I’m also excited just to see how this team responds.”
The Vols (1-1) could not overcome a poor shooting performance to rally in the second half after giving up the lead for good with 18:12 to play. The Buffaloes (2-1) led by as many as 14 down the stretch as part of a dominant second half in which they outscored Tennessee 46-32.
“They deserved to win,” Vols coach Rick Barnes said. “They, I thought, controlled the game pretty much from start to finish.”
Simpson had 15 second-half points.
“We just wanted to focus on coming out the second half with even more energy than we did in the first,” he said. “We just wanted to really dial in and focus on coming out even better than we did in the first.”
Tennessee held a 34-32 lead at halftime after shooting just 23.1% from the field. Colorado trailed by as many as eight points before halftime.
Key paced the Vols in the first half with 12 points, with all but three points coming from the free-throw line.
Colorado’s bench outscored Tennessee’s 52-34.
The victory was the Buffaloes’ first over the Vols after dropping the previous four matchups between the schools.
Tennessee likely will drop dramatically when the next poll is released, as the 10 teams ahead of it all have wins in their first two games.
Colorado: After a disappointing loss Friday to Grambling State, the Buffaloes held the Vols to 66 points after surrendering an average of 74.5 points per game while splitting their first two of the season.
Tennessee: The Vols need to find their shooting touch from the field as the season progresses. They shot 40% in their season-opening win over Tennessee Tech but struggled against Colorado.
Colorado: Faces UMass on Thursday at the Myrtle Beach Invitational.
Tennessee: Hosts Florida Gulf Coast on Wednesday before heading to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis the following week.