UCCS gets first win under Schakel
LAS VEGAS, N.M.- As the final seconds of Tuesday's game ticked off, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs coach Doug Schakel threw his arms wide, looked skyward and let out a triumphant yell. The Mountain Lions players flashed huge smiles that betrayed both their elation and their uncertainty; almost as if even with no time remaining, some nefarious force might come along and snatch the feeling away from them.
You'd have thought they had just won the championship.
And in a way, they did.
"I can't tell you how happy I am for our players to get that monkey off their back and get a win," said Schakel.
Behind 21 points each by Bly McGuire and Patrick Hannaway, the Mountain Lions defeated New Mexico Highlands Cowboys 69-63 at the John A. Wilson Complex. With the win, they discarded, hopefully for good, some old, unwanted baggage.
It was the UCCS' first Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference road win since Jan. 20, 2004. It broke an eight-game losing streak. It was the first win since Schakel took over the floundering program. But more important than any of those was that the Mountain Lions had many chances to let this on get away, and didn't.
"In the past, when we fell behind - human nature is that you want to get it all back right away - (but) there aren't any magic seven-point baskets," sad Schakel. "I thought our kids held their poise."
"When you dig yourself a little hole, you did it one shovel at a time," he added. "We're not going to bring the bulldozer in and put all the dirt back in all at once. We need to shovel the dirt back in one shovel-full at a time."
And the Mountain Lions kept shoveling all night. In fact, UCCS (3-19, 2-12 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) held the lead for only 4 minutes, 30 seconds. Fortunately, that included the final 3:06.
New Mexico Highlands raced to a 19-8 lead but couldn't blow it open. The lead was still seven with 7:25 remaining in the first half when Dan Deveau nailed a 3-pointer. The Cowboys answered with a Robert Franklin free throw before Patrick Simpson hit a 3-pointer from the right baseline to close to 24-22. A McGuire tip-in tied the game for the first time with 4:21 remaining.
The Cowboys tried to blow it open again at the beginning of the second half, building the lead to eight with 13:38 left. Again, UCCS didn't wilt.
"We didn't fuel any of their runs," said McGuire. "We slowed down and tried to be patient and really worked the offense to get easy scores. For the most part we did that. We kicked out, we hit open shots, everything we're supposed to do."
That formula allowed the Mountain Lions to slowly, doggedly reduce the deficit. That effort reached fruition when McGuire hit a hook shot with 4:19 remaining to give UCCS its first lead of the second half, 60-58.
The Mountain Lions held a slim 61-60 lead when Hannaway stole and inbounds pass at the UCCS end of the floor. His outlet pass went to Simpson, who found Deveau up the left sideline. Deveau found Hannaway, who had streaked up the opposite side, for a layup and foul. Hannaway's fee throw made it 64-60.
After a free throw cut the lead to three, UCCS drained 27 seconds off the shot clock before getting the ball to McGuire for a spinning layup with 1:45 remaining. Highlands was unable to close the gap.
"We were trying to be real patient and make them play defense for at least 30 seconds," said McGuire, "so they get fatigued and have to work harder than they want to."
McGuire proved too quick for Highlands' 7-foot starting center, Robert Howell, and too strong for Howells' backup, Donald Gray. McGuire, a junior from tiny Elbert, Colo., went 7-for-11 from the field and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
"I tried to be more aggressive and make sure I got my man boxed out," said McGuire. "I haven't been shooting that well the past couple of games, so to put the ball in the hole a couple of times definitely boosts your confidence."
Deveau had perhaps the best game of his UCCS career. The senior added 11 points, four assists, four steals and frustrated Highlands shooters on the perimeter.
Franklin led New Mexico Highlands (8-13, 4-9 RMAC) with 19 points and eight rebounds.
While it was Schakel's 305th RMAC win, it was his first at UCCS. His demeanor afterwards was more like the proud papa of a toddler than a basketball coach. In many ways, that's appropriate. After all, these Mountain Lions are just taking their first steps toward what Schakel refers to as a"basketball I.Q."
"Our kids are starting to get it," said Schakel. "I've said each time I've come off the floor," "we're getting better" and we got real better ight."
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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