UCCS makes RMAC playoffs despite loss to Metro in regular season finale
COLORADO SPRINGS - There was a classic case of bad news / good news for the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Saturday evening.
The bad news was that the Mountain Lions were beaten 86-76 by the No. 15-ranked Metro State Roadrunners in their regular season finale and, likely, their final game ever at the Lions' Den.
The good news was that in Golden, Nebraska-Kearney beat Colorado School of Mines 78-66 sending UCCS to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference playoffs for just the third time in school history but the second in coach Russ Caton's three years at the helm.
"We're excited to be still alive and have another opportunity," said Caton
The Mountain Lions will go into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed and will face Metro State again on Tuesday at Auraria Fieldhouse.
Frank McCollum led UCCS (10-17, 10-9 RMAC) with 18 points, all in the second half, while Steven Clements matched his career high with 11 rebounds, all in the first half. The two are the team's only seniors and were honored prior to the game.
"It was really nice to see Steve end his home career with a great, solid game," said Caton. "He really played his tail off. Frank started off a little slow but really came on strong in the second half.
"I can't say enough good things about those two guys."
He also can't say enough about redshirt freshman Tommy Klausner, who notched his third career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Jesse Wagstaff led Metro State (24-3, 18-1 RMAC) with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Marquise Carrington added 17 points, five assists and eight steals as the Roadrunners forced 31 turnovers, the most given up by UCCS this season.
The Mountain Lions were leading 47-43 with 16:17 remaining in the game when Metro State launched into a 14-2 run over the next 4:25 during which the Roadrunners forced seven turnovers.
A McCollum 3-pointer cut the deficit to three (79-76) with just under two minutes remaining, but a three-point play by Wagstaff and two free throws each by Carrington and Brian Minor preserved the win.
"We didn't deserve to beat them," said Caton. "We played hard and we played with a lot of heart but mentally we didn't handle what they do very well."
That said, Caton pointed out that a return engagement against the powerful Roadrunners isn't necessarily the trip to the guillotine that it may seem to be. In this case, familiarity doesn't breed contempt - it breeds confidence.
"I told the guys in the locker room that the best thing you can do against Metro is play Metro," said Caton. "You can't really simulate what they do in practice, so turning around and playing them again may be the best thing we can do.
"If we ever want a chance to beat them - beating a team three times is tough to do and getting that extra game of experience against them is a big thing for us."
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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|March 9, 2009||McCollum, Smith honored by RMAC||Frank McCollum and Cole Smith of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs were named to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference menâ€™s basketball second- and third-teams, respectively, the conference announced Wednesday.|
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|March 2, 2009||UCCS headed to postseason play for only third time in school history||In just three seasons as the men's basketball coach at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Russ Caton has accomplished something that none of his predecessors managed - he qualified for the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference playoffs twice.|