UCCS comes back but can't overcome 28 turnovers in loss to Cowgirls

By Doug Fitzgerald published December 11, 2009

LAS VEGAS, N.M. â€" Seventeen points by Payden Ackerman couldnâ€TMt overcome 28 turnovers as the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs womenâ€TMs basketball team was beaten 68-59 by the New Mexico Highlands Cowgirls Friday evening at the John A. Wilson Complex.

Jessica Armijo led New Mexico Highlands (4-2, 1-2 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) with 14 points. Whitney Polosky added 10 points while Ashley Logan had a game-high nine rebounds to go with her nine points.

“They did some good things as a team,” said UCCS coach Stephen Kirkham of the Cowgirls. “Theyâ€TMre very well coached; (NMHU coach Tiffany Darlingâ€TMs) doing a great job down here.”

Ashley Miller and Lauren Holm each added nine points for the Mountain Lions, who slipped to 3-5, 0-2 in the RMAC. Holm also had a team-best eight rebounds.

The game was far from a disaster for the Mountain Lions. UCCS had a 37-34 rebounding advantage, hit 17-of-19 free throws, shot a respectable 37.3 percent from the field and force 18 turnovers of their own.

“I saw a lot of good things tonight; we really battled,” said Kirkham. “We looked like a team with heart and desire tonight and thatâ€TMs what I like to see.”

Three times in UCCSâ€TM first seven games the Mountain Lions fell behind by 20 or more in the first half and went down 14 in another. The Mountain Lionsâ€TM propensity for slow starts caused Kirkham to shake up the starting lineup. Leading scorer and rebounder Mallory Lowe did not start. Nor did forward Caley Fisher, who was out with an injury. Taking their places were guards Janean Jubic and Lauren Wolfinger, giving the Mountain Lions a four-guard lineup.

While Lowe entered the game after just four minutes, the Cowgirls still managed to use their size advantage early. While they had a modest 21-18 rebounding edge in the first half, the real damage was done in the offensive post. NMHU shot 16 first-half free throws while the perimeter-oriented Mountain Lions shot only five.

But the real story of the Cowgirlsâ€TM 31-22 halftime lead was turnovers. UCCS had little trouble with the NMHU press, which was put in play on every throw in, but repeatedly forced passes in the halfcourt. The resulting 19 turnovers (yes, 19 in one half) were as many or more giveaways as UCCS has had in all but one of its complete games so far this season.

“We had 19 turnovers in the first half in our halfcourt offense,” said Kirkham. “It was crazy stuff. All we had to do was reverse the ball and away we go.

“Thereâ€TMs no excuse for 19 turnovers.”

In fact, given the combination of the free throw disparity and the turnover parade, it was fairly amazing the UCCS trailed by only nine.

“We didnâ€TMt bury ourselves quite so deep tonight.,” said Kirkham. “We had a chance to get back in it and maybe win a basketball game.”

Consecutive field goals by Armijo, one a 3-pointer, expanded the lead to 40-29 early in the second half when UCCS made the first of two comebacks. Wolfinger had five points as the Mountain Lions put together an 11-2 run to cut the deficit to two.

But UCCS couldnâ€TMt maintain the momentum and NMHU had built it back to nine (57-48) with 7:45 remaining.

The Mountain Lions came back again, getting four points from Alyse Bessert during a 9-1 run that cut the gap to a single point with 4:51 left. After a Highlands field goal, Lowe answered with two free throws to make it 60-59 with 3:05 remaining.

Again, though, the comeback stalled at victoryâ€TMs doorstep. Back-to-back turnovers were answered by back-to-back Cowgirl hoops, one for three, as NMHU took control for the final time.

“We came out in the second half and played a lot smarter and took care of the basketball,” said Kirkham. “We cut it to one twice and had a chance to do something special tonight. We just couldnâ€TMt quite hang on down the stretch.”

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