Down to eight players, UCCS falls to Fort Lewis

By Doug Fitzgerald published February 5, 2005

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs men's basketball bench has become one of the most crowded places on campus.

With the recent additions of Chris Johnson, who is out for the season with a broken wrist, and Stephon Hicks, who has an injured foot, the Mountain Lions now have nine players sitting in sweat suits. That's a bad situation, especially considering there were only eight in uniform - two of which started the season as student managers.

That kind of attrition takes its toll.

Jim Pecic had 29 points and 14 rebounds, but that wasn't nearly enough to overcome No. 5-ranked Fort Lewis as the Skyhawks pounded the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs 109-85 Saturday afternoon at the Lions' Den.

Pecic went 10-for-11 from the field, including 2-for-2 from 3-point range as CU-Colorado Springs (0-20, 0-13 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) extended its school-high losing streak to 21 games. With so many players injured and/or ineligible, Pecic has had to shoulder a disproportionately large share of the Mountain Lions' scoring load.

"Jim understands that with the different personnel we have to put on the floor, he has to be more aggressive offensively," said CU-Colorado Springs coach Lance Hammond. "He's taken on that role and has also done a good job on the backboards."

Yet even while looking down a bench that has more casts than a fly fishing contest, Hammond refused to acknowledge that his team has faced more than a normal allotment of adversity.

"It's not what happens to you, it's how you react to it," said Hammond the philosopher.

But Hammond's mantra isn't practiced or phony. It's part of a value system that goes to his core. He's instilled that value system into his team.

"If there's one thing this team is, it's resilient," said Hammond. "I couldn't be more proud of the eight kids we were able to put on the floor. They compete, they stick together and they work hard."

They did work hard. Trey White scored a career-high 19 points for CU-Colorado Springs. Torrey Phillips had 14 points and eight rebounds, while Matt Cordova added 10 points.

But the Skyhawks were simply too talented and too disciplined to overcome. Ryan Johnson came off the bench to lead Fort Lewis (16-3, 11-2 RMAC) with 19 points. Derek Yutzy and Jason Faust each added 17 points and five of the Skyhawksâ€TM 29 assists.

Hammond has been working hard recruiting prospects for next season, three of whom visited campus over the past week. Some of his injured players are already beginning their rehabilitation. The ineligible players will be back. All of that points to significantly brighter horizons.

But as a coach, Hammond is rightfully focused on the here and now.

"You're not going to believe me when I tell you this, but I could coach these eight kids for the rest of my career and be happy," said Hammond. "I'm that proud of them."

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Jim PecicJim Pecic32FJr.
Jim PecicJim Pecic20FJr.
Jim PecicJim Pecic20FSr.
Stephon HicksStephon Hicks40G/FSr.
Matt CordovaMatt Cordova15G/FFr.
Matt CordovaMatt Cordova15G/FFr.
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