Mountain Lions fall to Metro State in first round of RMAC playoffs
DENVER - History will have to wait - again.
Despite 20 points, nine rebounds and four steals by senior Frank McCollum in his final game as a Mountain Lion, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs lost 84-78 to the Metro State Roadrunners Tuesday evening in the first round of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference playoffs.
UCCS was trying to not only win its first playoff game since the program's inception in 1987, it was also trying to score its first win over Metro State in 34 tries.
Neither happened this time, but coach Russ Caton sees both in the not-too-distant future.
"We were two evenly matched teams, and when it's evenly matched teams, it's just minor details that make the difference," said UCCS coach Russ Caton. "(Metro got) some big individual plays from their two seniors, Marquise (Carrington) and (Kevin) Wagstaff."
That duo accounted for 20 points each and Carrington added eight assists. Donte Nicholas and Nelson Ekeh each added 12 points for Metro State (25-3).
For UCCS (10-18) Jordan McClung added 15 points and fellow sophomore Ben Feilmeier had 12 points and five assists. The freshman class was represented by Scott Sublousky (11 points) and Tommy Klausner (nine points and nine rebounds). Add other key returners and the Mountain Lions have a lot to look forward to.
"There's certainly a lot to build on," said Caton. "We're going to miss Frank's scoring and (Steven Clements') banging, but I know we have some guys that are going to step up and fill those spots really well. I'm already getting excited about next year."
For the approximately 250 UCCS fans that made the trip to Denver for Tuesday's game, there was no shortage of excitement right now. They made enough noise to, for much of the game, drown out the Metro State faithful.
"That was awesome, looking up and seeing all of those people come and support us," said McCollum.
"It's beautiful to see," agreed Clements. "It's all coming together with the fans are coming to support us."
Metro held the Mountain Lions scoreless on 11 straight first-half possessions Tuesday to surge to a 29-15 lead. McCollum ended the drought with a 3-pointer at the 6:51 mark, and by the end of the half UCCS had whittle the deficit to seven at 38-31.
The second half was a series of Metro State runs followed by UCCS comebacks. After a McCollum 3-pointer brought the Mountain Lions to within three at 40-37, the Roadrunners answered by scoring six straight. UCCS worked its way back, tying the game for the first time since the opening minutes after a Cole Smith hook shot knotted it at 53 with 12:23 left.
Just over two minutes later, Ben Feilmeier drained a three to cap a 6-0 run that evened it again at 59.
But the Roadrunners had one more run left, and this time UCCS had no answer. Metro State followed with a 12-2 run to take a 71-61 lead with 6:44 remaining and, this time, were able to keep the Mountain Lions at arm's length.
"It's hard to go on runs against Metro," said Caton. "You've got to keep the game close."
After the game, UCCS players wore the long faces expected of a team whose season had come to what they sincerely believe was a premature end. Caton and his players were unanimous, though, in their optimism for the future.
"It's nice to say I think we're evenly matched with a team that's now ranked 11th in the country," said Caton. "That's something we can be proud of - we played them tough.
"There are no excuses; the better team won. In the future, we're going to be the better team."
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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