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March Madness: No. 10 Colorado holds for 102-100 thriller over Florida on late KJ Simpson game-winner

Florida scored 100 points in their NCAA tournament opener Friday. It wasn't enough.

Colorado blew a late 13-point lead then saw junior guard KJ Simpson stun the Gators with a game-winning jumper that bounced around the rim and in to secure a 102-100 thriller for the Buffaloes.

Colorado led 94-81 with 4:30 remaining. But Florida mounted a 19-6 to rally tie the game on a Walter Clayton Jr. 3-pointer with 9.5 seconds remaining.

Colorado had the last look. And Simpson took advantage. Simpson took an inbounds pass in the frontcourt with 6.1 seconds remaining. He ran to the right corner and pulled up for a jumper. The ball bounced several times around the rim before dropping in to give the Buffaloes a 102-100 lead.

Florida's last-gasp heave missed, and Colorado held on for victory.

Colorado offense comes alive in NCAA shootout

The frantic finish concluded the highest-scoring game of the tournament so far and saw Colorado advance to face No. 2 seed Marquette in Sunday's second round.

The game promised to be a shootout from before the opening tip. It didn't disappoint. Florida entered the game with the nation's sixth-highest scoring offense at 85.1 points per game. It also fielded a defense that ranked 85th in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency.

Colorado's KJ Simpson (center) celebrates with his teammates after hitting the game-winning shot to defeat Florida in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday in Indianapolis. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Colorado's KJ Simpson (center) celebrates after hitting the game-winning shot to defeat Florida in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday in Indianapolis. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) (Dylan Buell via Getty Images)

A strong Colorado offense took advantage as the two teams battled to a 45-45 halftime tie. The Buffaloes then took over late in the second half.

The two sides traded buckets early in the second half as Florida managed a 56-54 lead that would be its last of the game. Colorado inched away from there, then built what looked like a late insurmountable lead by scoring 16 times in 18 possessions against a hapless Florida defense. A Tristan da Silva dunk put Colorado up in control with a 94-81 lead and 4:30 remaining.

But the Buffaloes went into clock-killing mode from there, allowing multiple possessions to go deep into the shot-clock instead of continuing to attack the Florida defense. Florida took advantage of the change of pace to rally for the late tie. But ultimately it fell short thanks to Simpson's late heroics.

For Colorado, all five starters scored in double figures. Simpson, an All-Pac-12 first-team selection, led the way with 21 points, five rebounds and five assists. Eddie Lampkin Jr. added 21 points, six rebounds and five assists, while da Silva tallied 17 points, five assists and four rebounds. Colorado shot 63% from the floor, 60% (6 of 10) from 3-point distance and did significant damage from the line on a 28-of-33 free throw effort.

Clayton countered with a game-high 33 points for Florida while hitting 10 of 17 field goals as one of five Gators to score in double figures. Florida shot 51.5% from the field and 44% (11 of 25) from 3-point distance. But it wasn't enough to overcome shoddy defense and and an explosive Colorado offense.