New Mexico Highlands' deadly duo combines for 58 points to beat UCCS

By Doug Fitzgerald published December 11, 2009

LAS VEGAS, N.M. â€" The Rocky Mountain Athletic Conferenceâ€TMs most potent scoring tandem lived up to its billing Friday night as the New Mexico Highlands Cowboys beat the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs 98-82 at the John A. Wilson Complex.

Roman Andrade and Chop Tang scored 33 and 25 points respectively to lead Highlands (6-3, 1-2 RMAC). Andrade came into the game leading the RMAC in scoring with 25.4 points per game. Tang was third in the conference at 20 per contest.

“They have some really tough players who hit some really tough shots,” said UCCS coach Russ Caton.

The Mountain Lions (1-6, 1-1 RMAC) did plenty to help, shooting a miserable 50 percent from the foul line and committing 19 turnovers. That combination wasted a 53.3 percent shooting night.

Alex Snyder led UCCS with 19 points and five rebounds. Cole Smith added 16 points, followed by Scott Sublousky (12) and Chris Fernandez (11).

While the point totals fell a little short, the game was reminiscent of last yearâ€TMs matchup between the teams. On Dec. 8, 2008, NMHU made 14-of-21 3-pointers and 60.9 percent overall to beat UCCS 114-108 on Dec. 20, 2008. It was the highest combined scoring game in regulation time in UCCS history and the second-highest overall.

Friday, Highlands made 47.8 percent from 3-point range and 51.5 percent overall.

Early in the first half, the Mountain Lions had trouble solving a Highlands press that left the inbounds passer uncovered, allowing an odd-man advantage that forced the ball away from the middle of the court. As soon as the ball came in, the Cowboys would trap the receiver against the sideline. The result was 10 UCCS turnovers over the first 12 minutes of the game, some of which turned into quick layups and helped the Cowboys to a 15-point lead.

“We beat ourselves, I felt,” said Caton. (Offensively) we could get anything we wanted if we would take care of the ball and make the easy play. We chose not to do that and (the loss is) the result of it.”

The Mountain Lions solved the press just in time to go icy from the foul line. Through the first 16 minutes of the half, UCCS had made eight of its 11 free throws. Through the rest of the period, the Mountain Lions aggressively attacked the basket and drew fouls, but missed their final nine free throw attempts, including three that would have completed three-point plays.

“When you get four possessions with free throws in a row and donâ€TMt capitalize on any of them, you can talk all you want about defense but if you donâ€TMt put the ball in the hole youâ€TMre just not going to do well,” said Caton.

The combination of turnovers early, lousy free throw shooting late and 20 points from Andrade sent UCCS into the intermission with a daunting 48-34 deficit.

The Mountain Lions made a pair of runs in the second half in an attempt to close the gap. Trailing 55-38, Fernandez had five and Smith four as UCCS went on a 9-1 run to cut it to nine. Highlands coach Joe Harge called timeout and his Cowboys responded with six straight points to quell the threat.

A little later, Luke Hristou made a layup, Fernandez hit a 3-pointer, Scott Sublousky had a conventional three-point play and Smith converted a layup as the Mountain Lions had a 10-2 run to reduce the gap to 66-59.

But that was as close as it would get. Highlands heated up and UCCS faded away.

It doesnâ€TMt get easier for the Mountain Lions, who face a fully-rested, 4-1 Colorado State-Pueblo team Saturday.

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Chris FernandezChris Fernandez30FFr.
Chris FernandezChris Fernandez30FSo.
Chris FernandezChris Fernandez24F
Cole SmithCole Smith32FJr.
Cole SmithCole Smith32F
Scott SublouskyScott Sublousky15GFr.
Scott SublouskyScott Sublousky15GSr.
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