'Next generation' comes up big as UCCS beats Colorado Mines

By Doug Fitzgerald published February 15, 2008

GOLDEN -- Coming next season: Mountain Lions, the Next Generation. And University of Colorado at Colorado Springs fans got an exclusive sneak preview Friday evening at Lockridge Arena.

Behind 28 points by Nic Fuller and 25 by Jordan McClung, UCCS won its second straight game with a 99-90 victory over the Colorado School of Mines Orediggers.

Eric Davis added 18 points for the Mountain Lions (9-16, 5-12 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference), while Leo Thomas had 10. Davis and Abram Ziemer each had seven rebounds and McClung had five assists.

UCCS coach Russ Caton started three freshmen, McClung, Ziemer and Chris Fernandez and continued to employ the warp-speed offense that he unveiled two weeks ago.

"Next year should be a lot of fun," said McClung. "We've got a lot to look forward to, especially starting three freshmen in this game."

The trio combined for 32 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists. They also logged a combined 79 minutes of playing time.

"All of us freshmen (are) getting a lot of experience toward the end of the season, that's going to help us out next year," said McClung.

McClung's big night was his third career high in points scored in as many weeks. As a team, the Mountain Lions shot 55.7 percent from the field, including 48.1 percent of their 3-point attempts.

"We're doing a more up-tempo offense and pushing it up the floor," said McClung. "That creates a whole lot more open shots by penetrating and kicking (back out to the perimeter). I was just the one they found open."

Kyle Pape led Colorado Mines (13-13, 6-10 RMAC) with 29 points, seven assists and four steals.

The Mountain Lions made nine first-half 3-pointers, including seven of their first 10 to forge a 35-15 lead over the game's first 11 minutes. The advantage got as high as 22 before a series of unfortunate events resulted in three turnovers and five fouls over the final two minutes of the half. With that help, Mines was able to whittle the lead down to 51-37 at the intermission.

The malaise at the close of the half continued into the next as Mines doggedly came back. Pape's steal and jumper with 13:31 remaining in the game closed the gap to 58-54.

At that point, the game got a case of the runs. Davis had six points as UCCS answered with a 15-5 run. The Orediggers then had a run of their own as Grant Gunhus had nine points during 15-4 stretch that made it 77-74.

On it went. UCCS scored the next eight, after which Mines registered nine in a row. But in cases like this, he who runs last runs best -- and UCCS had the final run.

McClung hit two free throws with 3:31 remaining and 39 seconds later Fuller hit a pull-up jumper. After Mines got two free throws from Chad Friehauf, Kyle Perkins, who was playing with a painful hand injury, bulled inside for a layup and McClung hit two more free throws. Suddenly, UCCS was up 94-85 with just 36 seconds left.

And just as suddenly, UCCS had won two straight. And the critics' take on the new-look, next-generation Mountain Lions sneak preview.

"It's great," said McClung. "Two wins in a row feels good."

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Leo ThomasLeo Thomas12GJr.
Leo ThomasLeo Thomas12GJr.
Leo ThomasLeo Thomas12GSr.
Eric DavisEric Davis35FFr.
Eric DavisEric Davis35FSo.
Abram ZiemerAbram Ziemer10GFr.
Jordan McClungJordan McClung14GFr.
Jordan McClungJordan McClung14GSo.
Jordan McClungJordan McClung14GJr.
Jordan McClungJordan McClung14GFr.
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