Mountain Lions Bench Answers Call in Victory Over Colorado Christian
COLORADO SPRINGS â€" The Mountain Lions' bench scored 30 points and shot 66.7 percent from the field as the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs scored a 70-64 victory over the Colorado Christian Cougars Saturday evening at the Gallogly Events Center.
Luke Hristou (14 points, 6-for-10 shooting), Rob Howe (seven, 3-for-3), Tommy Klausner (five, 1-for-2) and Damar Hill (four, 2-for-3) consistently provided a spark for the Mountain Lions. Klausner also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
â€œWe had some great minutes from our bench,â€ said UCCS coach Russ Caton. â€œI canâ€TMt say enough good things.â€
Caton made it a point to mention Howe. The junior from De Soto, Texas, played just 97 minutes combined in his first two seasons and played sparingly through the first three months of this campaign. Heâ€TMs become a key man off the UCCS bench since the beginning of February, though, averaging six points and 10 minutes per game. Heâ€TMs made 11 of his 19 field goal attempts during the month, including 5-for-11 from 3-point range and has played solid defense, particularly against the pick-and â€"roll.
â€œRob has been here for three years and battled hard,â€ said Caton. â€œHeâ€TMs had his chances to go somewhere else where he might have played more minutes, but he stuck with us and heâ€TMs really been coming up big. Heâ€TMs been a great spark for us and Iâ€TMm glad heâ€TMs here.â€
Among Saturdayâ€TMs starters, Ben Feilmeier matched Hristou's 14 points for the team scoring lead and also added seven assists and six rebounds. Jordan McClung added 12 points and five assists.
â€œ(Feilmeierâ€TMs) a great shooter,â€ said Hill, who played a season-high 28 minutes and was dynamic defensively. â€œPeople have to respect his jumper, so he gets to the key and always finds the person thatâ€TMs open.â€
By improving to 8-9 in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play (10-15 overall), the Mountain Lions moved into a tie with Colorado Christian (8-9 RMAC, 10-13 overall) for third place in the RMAC's East Division. Both can feel the breath of Chadron State and Nebraska-Kearney, which are a game behind at 7-10.
Two of those four teams will qualify for the RMAC playoffs. The other two will be left with thoughts of what might have been.
Caton said his teamâ€TMs focus is ahead, not behind.
â€œWe donâ€TMt even look at it that way; weâ€TMre looking at it the other way â€" to beat Christian so we can get the third-place spot,â€ said Caton. â€œWeâ€TMre not fighting for fourth place, weâ€TMre fighting for third place.â€
Justin Neuhaus and Jobi Wall were, as they have been all season, outstanding for the Cougars. The 6-foot-10 Neuhaus had 19 points and eight rebounds, while Wall added 17 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two blocked shots. Former Mountain Lion Abram Ziemer was 3-for-4 on 3-pointers for nine points.
The Mountain Lions were content to make Neuhaus and Wall have to work for what they got but did not try to neutralize them with the double-team. Instead, they let Cole Smith, Klausner, Howe, Brent Jones and Chris Fernandez take on the Cougarsâ€TM big men while maintaining pressure on the perimeter players.
It worked spectacularly. Colorado Christian players not named Neuhaus or Wall combined to shoot just 9-for-36.
â€œOur guards kept pressure on their guards, so they didnâ€TMt hit threes,â€ said Hill. â€œAlso, they had trouble getting the ball inside.â€
The Mountain Lions led 14-13 when they went on an 11-0 run that started with a three-point play by Klausner and featured four points by Hill. Colorado Christian, though, reduced the halftime deficit to 33-27 by closing the period with a seven-point run over the final 3:28.
After Neuhaus opened the second half by cutting the gap to four, the Mountain Lions began a methodical expansion of its lead. UCCS sandwiched a Colorado Christian hoop with two four-point mini-runs. The Cougars worked the gap back down to seven only to see Hristou score five and Howe two to give UCCS a 51-37 lead with 9:56 remaining.
The Mountain Lions continued to answer each attempt at a rally, maintaining their lead between nine and 12 until the waning moments of the game. A Daniel Lemburg 3-pointer cut it to 64-58 with 1:17 left, but Feilmeier found Chris Fernandez for a clutch 3-pointer from the right baseline to push the advantage back to nine with just 41 seconds remaining.
The ability to answer every challenge mounted by the Cougars was a welcome departure from the labored effort UCCS mounted in its loss to Colorado School of Mines on Friday.
â€œThe energy that we brought tonight, it was night and day from the night before,â€ said Caton after Saturdayâ€TMs game. â€œWhen we play like that, it makes us pretty tough.
â€œWe talk Xâ€TMs and Oâ€TMs and come up with a gameplan, but if these guys donâ€TMt play with some heart and passion thatâ€TMs just a waste of time. Thatâ€TMs all we talked about tonight, playing with that focus and concentration and heart.â€
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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