Jones Comes Up Big as UCCS Qualifies for RMAC Playoffs with Win over Regis
DENVER â€" Nobody ever said this was going to be easy.
The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Mountain Lions got a career-high 26 points from Brent Jones and fought off a furious late rally to get the two things they came to Regis Fieldhouse to get; a 73-70 win over the Rangers and a spot in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference playoffs.
UCCS, which improved to 9-10 in the RMAC (11-16 overall), will play Tuesday evening at either Metro State or Colorado School of Mines depending on the results of game being played later Saturday.
But what happens later was utterly inconsequential after Saturdayâ€TMs game. UCCS overcame the absence of two starters, Alex Snyder and Chris Fernandez, to become the first UCCS menâ€TMs basketball team to qualify for postseason play in back-to-back seasons. UCCS has now made the playoffs in three of Russ Catonâ€TMs four seasons as the teamâ€TMs coach.
â€œThatâ€TMs the great thing about a team game â€" somebody goes down and somebody steps in to fill the void,â€ said Caton. â€œItâ€TMs the end of the season and we have some guys going down. The biggest thing is we found a way.
â€œThe one thing that we really needed tonight was for somebody to step up big. Brent did that for us.â€
Did he ever. The junior transfer from West Linn, Ore., was 9-for-15 from the field, made all eight of his free throws and grabbed five rebounds.
â€œI got my confidence â€" finally,â€ said Jones. â€œItâ€TMs fun to play when youâ€TMve got your confidence. We did it as a team. It wasnâ€TMt any one individual effort; everybody did their part.â€
Luke Hristou chipped in 10 points, including six in the first nine minutes as the Mountain Lions established an aggressive, fast-paced tempo. Damar Hill added nine points, three assists and tremendous energy offensively and defensively.
But it was center Cole Smith who had the biggest impact aside from Jones. The senior from Burlington, Colo., had 11 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
â€œCole had some good, big plays,â€ said Caton. â€œWhen he plays hard and aggressive, heâ€TMs a tough kid to stop.â€
The congratulations would have been muted, however, if UCCS hadnâ€TMt survived a spirited comeback by the Rangers. UCCS was leading 60-49 with 9:27 remaining when Matt Rosinski started the trouble with a layup. After a steal by Curtis Mitchell, Alex Potts drained a 3-pointer. A Rosinski pass led to a jumper by Chris Johansen, after which Mitchell nailed back-to-back 3-pointers.
Just like that, over a span of just 2:32, Regis had taken a 62-60 lead.
â€œTeams make runs,â€ said Jones. â€œWe made ours, they made theirs. We just stayed on top.â€
But it was anything but easy. The teams traded buckets twice before the Mountain Lions got a free throw by Jordan McClung and a baseline layup by Smith on a nifty bounce pass by Hill. The next possession, Smith hit Hristou with a wrap-around pass to complete the five-point run and give UCCS a 69-64 lead with three minutes left.
The Rangers answered again with 3-pointers by Mitchell and Potts to regain the led, 70-69, with 1:47 remaining.
The Hill-to-Smith combo struck again, this time including a foul which Smith converted into a convention three-point play. When Ben Feilmeier stole a pass with a minute left, the Mountain Lions had a chance to put it out of reach, but a turnover of their own gave the ball back to Regis with 34 seconds remaining.
The Rangers got a quality look for Potts, but his 3-pointer was off the mark. An offensive rebound turned into another 3-point attempt, this time by Mitchell, but Jones got a hand in his face and disrupted the shot. McClung got the rebound, got fouled and made the second of two free throws with 2.5 seconds remaining.
Rosinskiâ€TMs half-court attempt to tie came up far short.
â€œWeâ€TMve got to learn how to put a team away,â€ said Caton. â€œI felt like we twice had the opportunity to where they would have folded if we would have had a couple more strong possessions. We havenâ€TMt been able to do that.â€
His point is well taken. UCCS had leads of 10 or more four times in the second half alone, but was unable to keep up enough pressure to put the game out of reach.
Most of the credit â€" or blame depending upon your perspective â€" for that goes to the Rangers, though. Rosinski finished with 28 points and four assists. Mitchell added 21 points and Potts 13. Regis (8-19, 3-16 RMAC) hit 10-of-26 from 3-point range and 47.3 percent overall.
UCCS countered with outstanding pace and movement, which led to 50.9 percent shooting. And a berth in the playoffs.
â€œItâ€TMs the best feeling ever,â€ said Jones.
UCCS fans agree.
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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