Mountain Lions denied unpecedented sweep

By Doug Fitzgerald published January 17, 2004

Fresh off an unlikely upset the night before, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs came out strong Saturday trying to become the first Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference team to sweep the conferenceâ€TMs toughest road trip â€" the “pain on the plains” tour through Kearney, Neb., and Hays, Kan.

Momentum carried the Mountain Lions to an 11-point first half lead. Destiny, it would seem, denied them the sweep as CU-Colorado Springs fell 74-61 Saturday to the Fort Hays State Tigers.

The victory over Nebraska-Kearney the night before sent tremors through the RMAC. A win Saturday would have magnified those tremors into full-fledged shock waves. When Janine Ota nailed a 3-pointer to give CU-Colorado Springs a 32-21 lead with 6 minutes, 31 seconds left in the first half, Gross Memorial Coliseum had the feeling of an epicenter.

No RMAC team had ventured amid the corn and wheat fields of western Kansas and southern Nebraska and come away with two wins. And here were the Mountain Lions holding an 11-point advantage on history.

But it was not to be. At least not on this trip to the Conferenceâ€TMs easternmost outposts.

Helped by eight CU-Colorado Springs turnovers, Fort Hays State closed out the half with a 15-0 run. The sudden rash of turnovers had the feel of fate, since the Mountain Lions committed only 11 during the other 34 minutes of the game.

The teams wrangled for position through much of the second half, with the Mountain Lions making challenges and the Tigers consistently finding the answers. Six times CU-Colorado Springs cut the lead to a single field goal or less. Six times Fort Hays State was able to answer. When Meghan McGee made two free throws to cut the lead to 58-54 with 4:50 remaining, the Mountain Lions had spent the last of the karma allotted them.

Fort Hays State got a three-point play from Cassie Cordell. After CU-Colorado Springsâ€TM Christina Merritt made two free throws, the Tigers got a 3-pointer from Katie Rhodes and two free throws from Aslee Gustin to increase the lead to 10. CU-Colorado Springs was forced to preserve the clock by fouling. Fort Hays State made the free throws and came away with the win.

Jennine Sauter had 18 points to lead the Mountain Lions. B.J. McNeally added 17 points, while McGee had 14.

Cordell led all scorers with 21 points, while Gustin grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds for the Tigers, who outrebounded CU-Colorado Springs 53-32. The Tigers were also potent from the foul line, going 34-of-40 compared to 9-of-12 for the Mountain Lions.

Those are the kind of stats that make fate so fickle.

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

BJ McNeallyBJ McNeally10GJr.
B.J. McNeallyB.J. McNeally10GSr.
Jennine SauterJennine Sauter21FSr.
Jennine SauterJennine Sauter21FJr.
Jennine SauterJennine Sauter21FSo
Jennine SauterJennine Sauter21FFr.
Christina MerrittChristina Merritt23FFr.
Christina MerrittChristina Merritt23FSo
Meghan McgeeMeghan Mcgee41FJr.
Meghan McGeeMeghan McGee41FSr
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