UCCS sets school free throw record in defeat of Regis

By Doug Fitzgerald published February 12, 2008

COLORADO SPRINGS -- The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs sank six free throws in the final 1:06 Tuesday night to defeat the Regis Rangers 90-86 at the Lions' Den.

The Mountain Lions attempted 47 free throws, converting 34, the most attempts ever by a UCCS men's team.

There was a reason for the unusual number of free throws. The Mountain Lions had attempted 38 3-pointers in each of the previous two games as coach Russ Caton went to an extreme uptempo game to try to compensate for his team's lack of size and take advantage of its perimeter shooting ability.

"Coach has been emphasizing for the last couple of weeks that we need to push the ball and get more shot opportunities," said UCCS senior guard Leo Thomas, who was playing in his final home game as a Mountain Lion. "We've been shooting within the first 10 seconds of the shot clock."

Knowing this, Regis coach Lonnie Porter had his team extend defensively on the perimeter Tuesday to deny the long shot. To counter, UCCS drove early and often, drawing 30 total fouls, many of which were in the act of shooting.

"They pressured out real hard," said Thomas. "Since they knew that we're 3-point shooters, we had opportunities to get to the bucket because they were closing out on us real hard.

"Coach always wants us to take the first opportunity to get to the bucket aggressively."

That was key in the closing moments. With just over a minute remaining and the score tied at 84, Nic Fuller penetrated hard to the basket, drawing a foul on Regis forward Geremy Gibson who tried to slide over to stop the drive. Fuller made both free throws to put UCCS up by two.

After two missed free throws by Gibson and an errant 3-pointer by Andy Pokorny, the Mountain Lions again went to the line when Kyle Perkins was knocked hard to the ground by Gibson with 37 seconds left. Still dizzy from the collision, Perkins banked in the first shot and badly missed the second.

Pokorny missed another jumper 11 seconds later and Perkins was again sent to the line with 21 seconds remaining. He again made one of two to put UCCS up 88-84.

A Gibson rebound and follow cut the lead to two with 12 seconds left and Regis was again forced to foul two seconds later. This time, Fuller, who is the all-time UCCS career free throw percentage leader at 86.5 percent, calmly drained both to account for the final margin.

Five Mountain Lions scored in double figures on Senior Night, including, fittingly, the Mountain Lions' two seniors. Fuller finished with a game-high 25 points, while Thomas matched his career-high with 12 points.

"I've always liked playing with Nic because he plays with so much heart; just like me," said Thomas.

Perkins added 13 points, while freshmen Abram Ziemer and Jordan McClung added 17 and 16 respectively. Another freshman, Chris Fernandez, came off the bench to register seven rebounds and four blocked shots in 19 minutes.

With the win, UCCS (8-16, 4-12 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) snapped a four-game losing streak and won for just the second time in its past 12 games.

Gibson led Regis (13-10, 8-7 RMAC) with 22 points and 16 rebounds. Pokorny added 20 and James Bulluck had 19.

Gibson and Bulluck were nearly unstoppable in the first half as a potent inside/outside combination. Each scored 15 points, with Bulluck knocking down three 3-pointers and Gibson going 6-for-9 from the interior. Gibson was also a beat on the boards, coming up just one board short of a rare first-half double-double.

Despite that, the Mountain Lions went into the intermission trailing by just four as Regis' hyper-physical tactics awarded the Mountain Lions 22 free throw attempts.

It was a fitting memory to leave for the UCCS faithful. The underclassmen gave an exciting preview of what the future could hold, while Fuller and Thomas finished their careers by really giving them something to remember.

"Tonight we knew that this was our last night playing together (at home) and we weren't going to let each other down," said Thomas.

"It was beautiful."

Mountain Lion fans couldn't agree more.

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Leo ThomasLeo Thomas12GJr.
Leo ThomasLeo Thomas12GJr.
Leo ThomasLeo Thomas12GSr.
Abram ZiemerAbram Ziemer10GFr.
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