UCCS men win conference opener
It took University of Colorado at Colorado Springs coach Lance Hammond exactly one Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference game to match his win total from last year.
The Mountain Lions survived a late Chadron State rally to defeat the Eagles 65-59 in the RMAC opener for both teams Thursday night at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. For the Mountain Lions (1-4, 1-0 RMAC), the win helped put last seasonâ€TMs 1-26, 1-18 mark behind them.
"It feels good," said Patrick Hannaway, who led UCCS with 21 points and 11 rebounds. "I think we were mentally prepared for this game. To come in and get a win right away in conference - this is really going to help us out and boost or confidence."
But it was very nearly more of the same. UCCS appeared to have the game well in hand with a 53-37 lead and 9:09 remaining. Chadron State, however, was able to slow the UCCS offense with a strong half-court trap defense and held the Mountain Lions to just seven points over the next 8:16.
"They did a good job coming out the second half and trapping up top," said Hannaway. "They hadn't been doing that all game. They gave us a different look and it kind of threw us for a twist."
While the Eagles defense did its part, the offense failed to take full advantage. The Eagles made five of their next 11 field goal attempts and went 10-for-15 from the foul line, but still trailed 60-57 with less than a minute left. Forced to foul, the Eagles watched helplessly as UCCS converted enough free throws to hold onto the win.
Four of those free throws were converted by P.J. Forrest, who finished with 11 points.
"I wanted to be there in that kind of situation," said Forrest. "I was confident that I would make them."
Defensively, UCCS held the Eagles to 1-for-17 shooting from 3-point range.
"Coming into the game, our mindset was to keep (Kenny Holston, Kody Christensen and Theo Danley) from shooting the three too much because we've been getting killed from 3-point (range)," said Forrest. "We decided to chase those guys around and try to make them dribble and rush."
It worked. The trio combined to go 0-for-9 from downtown.
What also worked was the Mountain Lions tough early season schedule. As Thursday's game got more and more physical, UCCS had the advantage of drawing upon the experience of playing top-notch competition.
"All of those D-I games really helped us prepare to take little bumps and bruises and play through them," said Forrest. "We also practice like that every day."
Center Bly McGuire added 13 points for UCCS.
Adisa Tobin led Chadron State with 23 points. Marcus Ligons added 19 points and a game-high 17 rebounds, 10 on the offensive glass.
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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