Win feels might fine for men's basketball
Few teams ever deserved a win more than the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs men's basketball team. When it came, few teams could have enjoyed it more.
Behind 21 points and 17 rebounds by Jack Bain, the Mountain Lions overcame a 21-point second half deficit to defeat the New Mexico Highlands Cowboys 82-77 Saturday night at the Lions' Den.
A layup by Matt Nelson gave New Mexico Highlands a 51-30 lead with 18:57 left in the game. The Cowboys' lead was 19 with only 17 minutes remaining when the Mountain Lions reeled off an improbable 22-4 run to close to within one, 59-58.
"What fueled (the comeback) was defense," said Bain. "It was unreal. You could just feel it out there. It's like an energy wave that comes over everybody. All five guys have that bounce in their step, that extra touch in their shot."
After the Cowboys made a pair of free throws, CU-Colorado Springs (4-21, 3-14 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) scored seven straight points to take a lead it would not relinquish.
New Mexico Highlands trailed by three and had possession at midcourt with 11 seconds remaining, but CU-Colorado Springs junior Stephon Hicks deflected the inbounds pass, and Josef Cruz alertly stepped into the passing lane to gather in the errant ball.
"I knew this game was over," said Bain. "We were (defensively told to) switch all screens - switch everything - and it just happened right there. Joe came through again."
Cruz's two free throws iced the game.
Cruz had one of his best overall games of the season, finishing with 12 points and six assists. Casey Gutting added 13 points, including a couple of crucial 3-pointers during the Mountain Lions' rally.
Jim Pecic, who says he's "70 percent" recovered from a torn ACL that sidelined him the first half of the season, had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
"I've never dealt with tearing an ACL. That's tough," said Bain. "Anytime you come back (from an injury), especially to the level he has - itâ's unreal. I've seen him battle hard - he's cracked his eye twice already. He gets beat up and comes back for more. It's just unreal heart."
Pecic, his eye bandaged from a collision that occurred during Friday's game, was just as grateful for the opportunity to make a difference as his teammates were for his contribution Saturday.
"With injuries, it's a lot of ups and downs," said Pecic. "It's hard to keep your head up when you're used to doing things the way that you did your whole life and then you come back and everthing's not the same. When you get the opportunity, you have to take advantage of it."
Matt Nelson led New Mexico Highlands 8-17, 4-13) with 19 points. David Johnson added 14, Jamaal Weaver had 13 and Aaron Gonzales had 10.
The Cowboys made 15 of their first 18 shots in building a 46-27 halftime lead.
For Bain, who has broken five different school records this past week, nothing could compare to the feeling Saturday's win gave him.
"Those records are nice to have. They really are," said Bain. "But nothing substitutes for a win - especially one long-deserved like this one."
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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|March 9, 2004||Bain grabs conference, regional honors||Having already secured a number of school records, senior forward Jack Bain added conference and regional honors to his resume this week.|
|February 27, 2004||Seniors shine in loss||Seniors Jack Bain, Casey Gutting and Jimmie Pack combined for 42 points in the final game of their collegiate careers, a 102-63 defeat at the hands of the Mesa State Mavericks.|
|February 24, 2004||Another Bain record leads to second stright win||Jack Bain, who has set record after record during this, his senior season, saved his best for last. And a capacity senior night crowd of 304 watched in amazement as Bain grabbed one more record.|