Fernandez's free throws lift UCCS to win over Johnson & Wales

By Doug Fitzgerald published November 1, 2008

Chris Fernandez made two free throws with 4.6 seconds remaining to lift the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs to a thrilling 75-73 victory over the Johnson & Wales Wildcats in the Mountain Lions' exhibition opener at the Lionsâ€TM Den.

Ben Feilmeier's pull-up jumper with seven seconds remaining was short, but Fernandez had established inside rebounding position and drew the foul. Fernandez had also drawn the rebounding foul with 23 seconds remaining and made one of his two free throws to tie the game at 73. Cole Smith got the offensive rebound on the missed free throw to set up UCCS' winning attempt.

"The ball got a good bounce and I was able to push my man under and come out with the rebound," said Smith. "It was the last push and the last seconds; it came down to whoever wanted it more, I guess."

M.J. Crespin's 3-point attempt at the buzzer was unsuccessful.

Smith led the Mountain Lions with 15 points and 16 rebounds. Fernandez also recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Frank McCollum added 13 points, while Jordan McClung had 11 points and a game-high five assists.

While happy with the win, the Mountain Lions will have plenty to work on before playing their final exhibition game on Nov. 8 at Division I Weber State or opening the regular season on Nov. 15 at home against Southwest Oklahoma State. UCCS was lethargic in its halfcourt offense, shooting a poor 31.7 percent from the field, including just 2-for-15 from 3-point range. The Mountain Lions also gave up 18 offensive rebounds and committed 21 turnovers.

"We came out a little timid," said Smith. "We're still kind of adjusting to each other on the court right now. I think we hurried up too much; made quick decisions when we could have slowed down and set up our offense instead."

That's the bad news. There was also no shortage of good news. The Mountain Lions grabbed 22 offensive rebounds of their own, ran extremely well in transition and did a great job driving to the basket. The latter resulted in 47 free throw attempts, 35 of which UCCS converted.

And the best news, of course, is that they won.

"The good news is that we came away with a win after playing as poorly as we did," said UCCS coach Russ Caton. "That team could give a lot of teams in the RMAC a run."

Nick Maly led Johnson & Wales with 14 points, while Andrew Baker and Nate Lark added 13 points each.

The Mountain Lions will return to practice on Monday with a clear idea of what they need to work on in order to be the team they believe they should be.

"We have a lot of little things that we need to correct in order to really break it open," said Smith.

Fortunately, on Saturday the final score wasn't one of them.

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Frank McCollumFrank McCollum42G
Frank McCollumFrank McCollum42GSr.
Chris FernandezChris Fernandez30FFr.
Chris FernandezChris Fernandez30FSo.
Chris FernandezChris Fernandez24F
Cole SmithCole Smith32FJr.
Cole SmithCole Smith32F
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