Making History Takes Balance and UCCS Gets that in Win over Nebraska-Kearney
COLORADO SPRINGS â€" University of Colorado at Colorado Springs men's basketball coach Russ Caton got the complete-team effort he had been looking for on Friday and the results were historic.
Nine Mountain Lions played 11 or more minutes and nine scored four or more points as UCCS beat Nebraska-Kearney 82-74 Friday evening at the Gallogly Events Center, marking both the first two-game series sweep over the Lopers by the UCCS men and the first women's / men's sweep in a single night by UCCS over UNK.
"I feel, like we win games in practice," said Caton. "This whole week we really focused on ball movement, player movement and getting more people involved.
"It was probably one of our best team basketball games we've played in a while."
It certainly didn't lack for contributors. Jordan McClung led UCCS (8-14, 6-8 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) with 14 points, while Luke Hristou and Brent Jones both came off the bench to add 13. Cole Smith joined the party with 10 points and a team-best eight rebounds. Ben Feilmeier had the team lead with six assists to go along with his nine points, all of which came in the second half. Chris Fernandez chipped in eight points and seven rebounds, Rob Howe had seven points and Alex Snyder and Damar Hall each had four.
It was the fifth time that UCCS had faced Nebraska-Kearney twice in the same season. The first four ended with two Loper sweeps and two splits. The men's and women's teams have played doubleheaders each season since 1997 without a UCCS sweep.
Until Friday, that is.
"That's huge for the program," said Hristou. "It seems like every game is another opportunity for us to make history because UCCS is still a new and growing (program)."
Nebraska-Kearney led by as many as seven and UCCS by as many as six in a back-and-forth first half that ended with the Mountain Lions leading 35-33.
"Getting contribution from everyone was what kept us in it in the first half," said Hristou. "I thought we really had a lot of guys step up today."
He was right. Eight UCCS players scored in the first half and 19 of the Mountain Lions' 35 points came from bench players.
The second half began like the first ended as a nine-point UCCS run was answered by an eight point spurt by the Lopers. The Mountain Lions were finally able to create some daylight with a 12-1 rally that both began and ended with Hristou 3-pointers and gave UCCS a 58-48 lead with 10:22 remaining.
But the Lopers weren't about to go away. The gap was still 10 1:28 later when Chris Deans had five points during an 11-2 run that made left UCCS with a tenuous 64-63 lead at the 5:34 mark. After a McClung layup and two Feilmeier free throws put UCCS back up by five, the Mountain Lions were able to answer every challenge. Three times over the final four minutes, UNK got to within three. Each time UCCS was able to find an answer, the first with a Hristou 3-pointer, the second with a Smith layup and the third with free throws by Hristou and Feilmeier.
Deans led Nebraska-Kearney (11-12, 6-9 RMAC) with 21 points and eight rebounds. Akeem Morissaint added 17 points, while Max Froehlich had 14 points and six assists.
The win presented the Mountain Lions with a big opportunity. A win over Chadron State on Saturday would put UCCS in sole possession of fourth place in the RMAC's East Division. That's a good place to be since four teams from each division will qualify for the RMAC playoffs.
UCCS has never qualified for the postseason in two consecutive seasons. Since the 2008-09 team made it, repeating this season would shatter another barrier. If the Mountain Lions can play the rest of the way like they played on Friday, their chances of making more history are good.
"It was a real breath of fresh air for me to see how they were playing tonight," said Caton. "It was a great team effort and, I think, the beginning of a good run for us."
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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