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Gators battle with Buffs, fall 102-100

Florida is knocked out of the first round of the NCAA tournament in a loss against Colorado. (Christopher Will/WUFT News)
Florida is knocked out of the first round of the NCAA tournament in a loss against Colorado. (Christopher Will/WUFT News)

It all came down to a single shot.

A basket made with less than two seconds on the clock wiped out a career high performance by Walter Clayton Jr. and a comeback attempt by the Florida Gators.

A game winning KJ Simpson jumper kept the Colorado Buffaloes dancing and sent the Florida Gators home in the Round of 64.

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The Gators were up 17-12 before the first media timeout.

With questions surrounding Riley Kugel and what his role would be in the tournament, Kugel and Denzel Aberdeen came off the bench and made some immediate plays.

With 13 minutes to go in the first half, Aberdeen fought over a screen at the top of the arc and forced a turnover from the Buffs. Aberdeen picked the ball up and pushed it to Kugel for a breakaway dunk to go up by 10.

But Colorado center Eddie Lampkin helped lead the first big comeback of the evening. A spin move and lay-in were just two of his 21 points of the night. Guard KJ Simpson hit a step-back jumper from the free throw line to tie it up at 45 going into the break.

The crowd was electric, with added cheers erupting as NFL quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, Anthony Richardson (sporting a Florida shirt), encouraged fans to get louder from courtside.

The Madness of March

With less than eight minutes to go in the game, Lampkin backed down freshman Alex Condon who was making his first career start in the absence of Micah Handlogten.

Once Colorado's Lampkin laid the ball in, but only after the players started running to the other side of the court, the referee declared Lampkin was fouled. Florida head coach Todd Golden was visibly upset with the delay, and after some discussion with the official, was given a technical.

“I have gotten three techs in my coaching career,” he said, “He has given me two of them.”

The two-point shot, one free throw and two technical points effectively made it a five-point play and extended the Colorado lead to 13.

Condon then fouled out after attempting to block a transition alley-oop. He finished with six points, six assists and seven rebounds in his first start.

Down by 10, Florida put on the full-court press and began to slowly close the gap. Walter Clayton Jr. proceeded to bring Florida back to life. An and-one and a three-point shot brought the deficit to three.

The full court press steal from Kugel led to Clayton getting fouled. He would make the first but miss the second. Colorado led 99-97.

Colorado would split the free throws and bring the lead to 100-97. Clayton kept the madness going.

He walked down the court with 14 seconds to go and pulled up from 28 feet to tie it at 100.

Buffs called a timeout with six seconds to go.

Out of the timeout, Colorado’s Simpson would get the ball, drive to the baseline, step back and put up the shot. For what felt like minutes, the ball bounced around the rim. Gainbridge Fieldhouse arena went silent, and the ball fell through the hoop. With 1.7 on the clock, Colorado would take the win 102-100.

“One possession away from getting that thing to overtime,” Golden said after the game.

Finishing the season with a 24-12 record, a runner-up finish in the SEC Tournament and a March Madness appearance left some of the Gators with an overall positive attitude.

“You can only smile at the end of it,” senior Tyrese Samuel said.

Colorado will take on Marquette on Sunday, with a spot in the Sweet Sixteen on the line.

Christopher is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing