UCCS Grabs First-Ever Win at Kearney, Improve RMAC Tournament Chances
KEARNEY, Neb. - The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs finally figured out a way to win at Nebraska-Kearney's Health & Sports Center.
The Mountain Lions used clean-Cole technology.
Cole Smith scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead UCCS to its first-ever win against the Lopers on their home court, a 68-63 decision Saturday afternoon.
It was the first win in Kearney by a UCCS men's basketball team in 10 tries, dating back to 1998.
"It's my first win in this building, too," said UCCS coach Russ Caton, who was an all-conference player at Adams State before beginning his coaching career.
More important than the historical perspective, though, was that the win improved the Mountain Lions' Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference record to 5-6 (7-12 overall), tying them with Chadron State (and likely Colorado Christian later in the evening) for the final playoff spot(s) in the conference's East Division. Thursday's loss at Chadron State made Saturday's game critical.
"We knew we had to bounce back after the loss on Thursday; there was no option," said Smith. "We had to show up today."
Smith wasn't the only one showing up, either. Jordan McClung added 14 points for UCCS, while Chris Fernandez had 10 and Ben Feilmeier seven. Alex Snyder had a game-high five assists and Brent Jones grabbed seven rebounds.
Although UCCS was playing on two days rest and Nebraska-Kearney on four, it was the Lopers that looked like the tired team. They shot just 37.5 percent both from the field and the foul line, the latter being a particularly miserable mark. Defensively, UNK was flat-footed and slow to react to UCCS cutters. That resulted in several of the Mountain Lions' 36 free throw attempts, only 19 of which they made.
"We had a lot of energy coming out," said Smith. "We were in a desperate situation and we knew that."
Josiah Parker led Nebraska-Kearney (9-10, 4-7 RMAC) with 16 points, while Max Froehlich added 14 points and four assists. Chris Deans had nine rebounds.
Three-pointers by McClung and Fernandez helped UCCS open the game with a 9-1 run. The Lopers responded with a 10-1 spurt of their own to take an 11-10 lead, the only one they would enjoy in the game. UCCS scored seven straight and, by halftime, had built a 32-22 lead.
"The tone for this game was set Thursday night in Chadron," said Caton. "When we come out and play aggressively the first three or four minutes, we can play with anybody and, usually, beat anybody.
"When we come out flat, it usually destroys us."
The Lopers were able to get to within two twice, the second with just 3:30 remaining. A Fernandez 3-pointer, two free throws by Smith and another by McClung, though, kept Nebraska-Kearney at arm's length.
The Lopers knocked down three 3-pointers in the final minute but the Mountain Lions were able to make enough of their free throws to preserve the win.
The Mountain Lions will play road games against Colorado Christian on Friday and Colorado Mines on Saturday before returning for four games at UCCS' Gallogly Events Center.
"We have to remember how we came out today and apply it to our upcoming games," said Smith. "When we come out like we did today, we can be a scary team."
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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