Mountain Lions have a Dickens of a time in loss to Colorado College
To borrow from Dickens, for the Colorado College Tigers it was the best of times Friday evening.
For the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Mountain Lions, it was most decidedly the worst of times.
Behind 23 points from Nick Rose, the NCAA Division III Tigers came into the Lions' Den and beat Division II UCCS in every conceivable way, including 78-72 on the scoreboard in the season opener for both teams.
It was the second game of the 2009 Marriott Mountain Lion Invitational. Black Hills State beat Bethany 88-58 earlier Friday. Colorado College will face Bethany on Saturday while UCCS takes on Black Hills State.
Colorado College, which has no player taller than 6-foot-5, outhustled its way to a 47-35 rebounding advantage against the larger Mountain Lions. The Tigers also held UCCS, which has shot 45.9, 45.0 and 50.4 percent the past three seasons, to a miserable 36.8 percent mark on Friday. Additionally, the Mountain Lions turned the ball over 25 times.
UCCS has shot that poorly only seven other times since Russ Caton became the coach prior to the 2006-07 season. Only four times over that same period have the Mountain Lions had as many or more turnovers. On no occasion under Caton has UCCS had both marks of misery in the same game.
Until Friday, that is.
"We didn't deserve to win it," said Caton. "They outplayed us on both ends of the floor and in every aspect of the game."
The Tigers frequently jumped passing lanes and managed to bog down a normally fast-paced UCCS offense. Caton discounted the idea that the pressure was a problem, citing that the Mountain Lions had faced far worse in exhibition games.
"It wasn't nearly what we faced against (Division I) Idaho; they pressured everything," he said. "Bottom line is if you don't play hard, you get beat."
That was obviously the case Friday. Jeremiah Waters scored 14 points for the Tigers, while Ryan Harty added 11 and Brady Ohlsen and Jarrell Sweet each had 10. Sweet also had five steals and six Tigers had either five or six rebounds.
Jordan McClung led the Mountain Lions with 23 points, while Cole Smith had 16. Scott Sublousky and Ben Feilmeier added 11 and 10 respectively.
UCCS led by as many as seven in the first half, going up 23-16 after back-to-back field goals by Smith. UCCS made just three field goals the rest of the half, however, allowing Colorado College to surge to 35-29 lead at the intermission.
The lead grew to as many as 13 before Smith scored seven straight to spark a 9-0 UCCS run that made it 61-57 with just over five minutes remaining. From that point, the Tigers went straight at UCCS, at first forcing fouls and then continuing to get to the line as the Mountain Lions tried to preserve the clock. Colorado College converted 17 of its 18 free throw attempts over the final five minutes, denying UCCS any real chance of closing the gap.
Long after the game ended, jubilant Colorado College players and fans celebrated loudly. Coming off two difficult seasons, beating the higher-division Mountain Lions was like winning an NCAA championship. Nobody at UCCS, which had more than its share of losing season before Caton's arrival, blamed them.
What UCCS fans were left hoping, though, is that Friday's result doesn't portend the future. UCCS has never won more than 10 games in a season during which it was beaten by Colorado College. And while they contemplate that, they might also again heed Dickens, who wrote:
"It opens the lungs, washes the countenance, exercises the eyes, and softens down the temper; so cry away."
At least until tomorrow. There is, after all, another game to play then.
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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