Bamba CU

Washington State guard TJ Bamba, left, drives toward the basket during a Pac-12 game against Colorado on Sunday at the CU Events Center in Boulder, Colorado.

Colorado guard KJ Simpson knocked down a go-ahead 3-pointer – his team’s second triple of the day – with 4 seconds remaining to lift the Buffaloes to a 58-55 victory Sunday in a back-and-forth Pac-12 game against visiting Washington State.

The teams traded blows throughout a tense final minute at the CU Events Center in Boulder. Guard TJ Bamba hit a driving layup to put the Cougars on top by one point with 40 seconds left, then Colorado reclaimed the lead from the free-throw line. Bamba drew a foul with 25 seconds on the clock and split his free throws, tying the score with 25 seconds to play.

“We had a chance to go up by one and try to get a stop, and we went 1-for-2 from the line,” WSU coach Kyle Smith said. “Not a lot of good endings when it’s a tie and they have one shot.”

On the ensuing possession, the Buffs used a screen to free up Simpson, who buried a straightaway triple.

“(Bamba) kind of went under on that ball screen,” WSU coach Kyle Smith said. “But credit to (Simpson). He made a shot, made a play. And we still got a shot to tie it.”

Bamba misfired on a 3-point try at the buzzer.

Colorado (12-9, 4-6 Pac-12) finished the game 2 of 7 from 3-point range.

The Cougars (9-12, 4-6) dropped both games during their trip to the Pac-12’s Mountain schools and fell to 0-11 all time on the road against Colorado.

WSU and Colorado endured long scoring droughts, committed 17 turnovers apiece and were tagged with a combined 36 fouls during a grinder of a game that included only sparse stretches of rhythm from either team and featured 13 lead changes – six in the last 10 minutes. Neither team led by more than five points in the second half.

“Two teams that turned the ball over a lot – good defense on both ends,” Smith said.

The Cougars built a 10-point cushion late in the first half, but the Buffaloes outscored WSU 13-2 over the final 6 minutes of the period to slide in front 26-25 at the break.

Colorado post Tristan da Silva topped all players with 27 points on 11 of 13 from the field.

“We gave him too many easy looks, but to his credit, he just made everything,” Smith said of da Silva.

The rest of the Buffaloes combined to shoot 10 of 29 from the floor. Simpson tacked on 16 points.

Bamba impressed in his return to the court after missing the past three games with a hand injury. The junior, who played his prep ball in Denver, attacked the paint and tallied 14 of his team-high 18 points (8 of 18) in the second half.

“Really proud of TJ. He gave us a chance to win that game,” Smith said.

“He’s our captain. He gave us some courage and confidence there to get that done. We just came up short.”

Forward Andrej Jakimovski added 12 points and went 2 of 2 from 3-point range on a shaky shooting night for the Cougars, who have been the Pac-12’s most productive team on 3-point attempts this season, but went 4 of 16 from downtown against the Buffs after hitting 6 of 23 on 3s in a 77-63 loss to Utah on Thursday. WSU shot 39.2% from the field versus Colorado.

“We competed a lot better than we did at Utah,” Smith said. “Our defense was excellent almost throughout.”

Standout center Mouhamed Gueye, the Cougs’ No. 2 scorer, shot 0 of 7 and failed to record a point for the first time this season. During a postgame radio interview, Smith said Gueye is dealing with a hamstring issue.

“Mouhamed was playing compromised, physically,” Smith said, “but he tried to give us his best, which he always does.”

WSU returns home for a weekend series against the Arizona schools. The Cougars tip off against the 11th-ranked Arizona Wildcats at 8 p.m. Thursday. WSU upset Arizona in Tucson on Jan. 7.

Colton Clark can be reached at coltonc@spokesman.com.