Fuller's buzzer-beater downs D-1 Southern Utah
CEDAR CITY, Utah -- Nic Fuller made a one-handed floater at the buzzer to lead the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs to a thrilling 79-78 victory over the NCAA Division I Southern Utah Thunderbirds Friday evening at Centrum Arena.
Down by one with four seconds remaining, Fuller took the inbounds pass and sprinted up the floor, weaving through three grasping defenders before launching a running jumper from just inside the 3-point arc. The ball hit the front of the rim, bounced high off the glass and settled into the hoop.
"I got to half court and saw that I had 2.8 seconds," said Fuller. "I saw them running out at me so I took two more dribbles and took my floater. (Geoff Payne) was coming out to block it so I had to launch it higher than normal."
That the game came down to that required a remarkable comeback by Southern Utah. The Mountain Lions led by as many as 15 early in the second half and were ahead by nine with 4:35 remaining when the Thunderbirds went on a 6-0 run over the next minute and a half.
"They're a good team," said Fuller. "They forced us into making some mistakes and were able to get some easy buckets off of those."
With 27 second left, Fuller made two free throws to give UCCS a 77-73 advantage. Nick Livi converted two free throws with 10 seconds left, and then on the inbounds pass, Fuller was knocked down. Instead of a foul, the ball was awarded to Southern Utah on a turnover.
With four seconds left, Payne collided with UCCS center Steven Clements and managed to roll the ball in. The foul shot put the Thunderbirds ahead for the first time since the 14:31 mark of the first half.
A jubilant crowd of 2,831 was silenced when Fuller's shot rolled in.
"We controlled 99 percent of that game," said Caton. "To have that taken from us would have made us feel really cheated. To have a shot like that go in validates the game."
Fuller led the Mountain Lions (4-1) with 21 points. Kyle Perkins added 15 points and Eric David had 14 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
Payne led Southern Utah (1-6) with 22 points, 12 rebounds and five steals.
UCCS arrived at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas well past midnight Friday morning. After getting their rental vehicles, the Mountain Lions checked into the Orleans Hotel at about 1:00 a.m. PST (2:00 MST) rather than immediately making the nearly three-hour drive to Cedar City. Caton opted to leave Las Vegas as late as possible to allow the team to get at least six or seven hours of sleep. The downside to the choice was that they also missed their shoot-around time at Centrum Arena.
Caton might want to consider missing some more shoot-arounds.
The Mountain Lions made four of their first five shots and went 17-of-28 from the field, including 7-of-13 on 3-pointers, in the first half to take a 42-31 lead at the intermission. Two 3-pointers by Fuller and another by Davis helped UCCS finish the half on a 9-3 run.
The Mountain Lions opened the second half with a 10-3 run to take their biggest lead, 52-37, with 14:54 remaining.
Caton is no stranger to Southern Utah, which was a member of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference until 1986 -- ironically the same year the UCCS athletic program began. As a collegian, Caton played one season for the Thunderbirds.
"It's fun to come back here," said Caton before the game. "I remember playing in front of a packed house against Weber State. I chased a guy down the baseline and went up to block his shot. I came down on his foot and sprained my ankle.
"I was in a hard cast for six weeks."
Caton's team will have somewhat fonder memories.
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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