Mountain Lions get Kirkham win No. 300
Stephen Kirkham's 300th collegiate basketball victory came in a game he never wanted to coach in the first place.
Behind 25 points from Patrick Hannaway, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Mountain Lions ended their eight-game losing streak Wednesday night with a 74-60 victory over the Colorado College Tigers at Reid Gymnasium.
Ironically, Kirkham never wanted to be in a position to win game No. 300. When he was named the athletic director at UCCS prior to the 2003-04 season, Kirkham was content with the 299 wins he had amassed as the women's basketball coach at Mesa State. It was his intention to never coach another game.
All that changed Tuesday with the firing of men's basketball coach Lance Hammond. Kirkham's hand-picked interim coach, Doug Schakel, was out of the state and not available until Monday. When he held a meeting Tuesday to discuss options, Kirkham's administrative staff was unanimous in its insistence that Kirkham be on the Mountain Lions' bench for Wednesday's game as well as this Saturday's game against Nebraska-Kearney.
Just like that, Kirkham found himself in exactly the place he thought he would never be again- a college basketball bench.
"When I think about my coaching career, that's the last thing I think about," said Kirkham, referring to the 300-win mark. "If it's about glory and ego and wins, you're not going to be a very good coach. It's got to be about the kids."
It was the kids who made the task easier. Hannaway went 8-for-12 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds. Bryan Snyder made three of his four 3-point attempts while scoring 16 points. Bly McGuire added 10 points, while P.J. Forrest had eight points and a game-high four assists.
"We had a lot of fun out there," said Matt Cordova, who was back in the starting lineup for the first time since Nov. 30. "Coach Kirkham was telling us it doesn't matter - don't look at the scoreboard - just have fun and play our game. I think a lot of us did that and we played better."
After leading by as many as eight in the first half, UCCS got a bit soft on the perimeter. Nate Brodman, who led the Tigers with 12 points, scored five in the final 40 seconds of the first half to tie the game at 36 at the break. During the half, Colorado College went 6-for-7 from 3-point range.
At halftime, Kirkham made adjustments.
"In the first half, we were digging," said Hannaway, using the basketball terminology for collapsing on the post. "That's how they were staying in the game. We stopped digging in the second half and started putting a lot more pressure on their 3-point shooters."
It worked. Colorado College went 1-for-7 from 3-point range in the second half.
Despite the strategy change, the Mountain Lions were nursing a 57-53 lead with 5:57 to play. Forrest responded with a pair of free throws, a blocked shot and a 3-pointer to spark a 7-0 run. After a Michael Nash field goal cut the lead to nine, Snyder found McGuire with a brilliant pass for a layup as the shot clock expired. The next trip down the floor, Hannaway had a tip-in off the offensive glass to put the Mountain Lions up 68-55 with less than three minutes to play.
"These kids had smiles on their faces the last 10 minutes of the game and were enjoying themselves," said Kirkham. "They did everything they needed to do at the end of the game. They converted every easy play, they had CC off-balance defensively, got steals, made their free throws, were patient on offense.
"It's fun to watch that."
And it was fun for the rest of us to watch win No. 300.
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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