Mountain Lions end school-record losing streak
Torrey Phillips hit a 3-pointer with 18.4 seconds remaining to help the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs men's basketball team snap its school-record 26-game losing streak with a 69-68 victory over the Western State Mountaineers Friday night.
Amid the din that followed as an overflow crowd at the Lions' Den erupted, there was also another, overwhelming feeling among the players, coaches, staff and fans. There was a palpable sense of relief.
"It feels like we won the championship," said Phillips, who had 12 points and six assists. "I can't even explain it right now, I'm just so happy."
For UCCS coach Lance Hammond, the biggest relief was that Jim Pecic, Stephon Hicks and Trey White would not have to end their collegiate careers with the stigma of a winless season.
"I'm so happy for our seniors," said Hammond. "I'm going to coach a lot more games and I'm pretty confident we're going to win some of them over the course of my career. This one is all about the seniors. I did not want to see them go out without getting at least one."
That the Mountain Lions' school-record losing streak should end against Western State was particularly fitting, since it was UCCS that ended Western State's school-record 31-game skid on Jan. 22.
"I'm sure (Western State's coaches) felt our pain," said Hammond. "Even though I'm sure they would have liked to see their kids come out on top because they fought so hard, I know they felt our sense of relief also."
A pair of free throws by Matt Klieforth gave Western State (5-20, 4-14 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) a 68-66 lead with 48 seconds remaining. As the shot clock ticked down, Phillips drove hard towards the free throw line, suddenly pulled up, took a step backwards and drilled the 3-pointer.
"I was going to try to get (the ball) to (White)," said Phillips. "I slipped and Trey's man tried to steal the ball from me so I spun away. I looked up and there was like two seconds on the shot clock so I had to get the shot up."
Following Phillips' shot, Western State's Lorens Knudsen threw up an off-balance air ball from the right side, but Klieforth was there for the opportunistic rebound. For that moment, seemingly frozen in time, the Mountaineer's 6-foot-7 sophomore center held the hearts of the UCCS faithful in his hands only four feet distant from the last-second shot that would break them all.
"I was so scared," said Phillips. "I was (thinking) -not this again," because I thought about (the Colorado College game)."
In that game on Feb. 1, Michael Reich knocked down a shot as the clock expired to extend the Mountain Lions' winless season. Regardless whether you call it luck, fortune, karma or whatever, the invisible force that had worked against UCCS this season finally reversed course on Friday and smiled upon the Mountain Lions. Klieforth's follow hit the back of the rim and caromed to Phillips as the clock expired.
The game shouldn't have come down to a final shot, though, since UCCS (1-25, 1-17 RMAC) led 54-41 after a Matt Cordova 3-pointer with 11:12 remaining. As has happened all too often in a dismal season, though, the Mountain Lions squandered the advantage. Josh Downey hit three consecutive 3-pointers during a 15-0 Western State rally gave the Mountaineers their first lead since the game's opening moments.
Another Klieforth field goal with just under five minutes left game the Mountaineers their biggest lead of the game, 63-58. Hicks, Phillips and Dan Deveau all hit jumpers to put UCCS back in the lead, but a Dusty Axtell free throw tied it at 64.
Downey led Western State with 18 points, while Klieforth finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Pecic led the Mountain Lions with a game-high 19 points and 10 rebounds. UCCS' other two seniors had solid contributions, with White posting nine points and Hicks adding eight.
"All three of them were on the floor at the end," said Hammond, who notched his first collegiate win as a head coach. "It was pretty special."
A first win should be.
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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