UCCS Can't Find its Level of Perfection in Playoff Loss to Metro State
DENVER - You have to be nearly perfect to beat a great team on its home floor in the playoffs. The Mountain Lions were far from perfect Tuesday evening.
Cole Smith had 21 points and 11 rebounds in his final game for the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, but the Metro State Roadrunners went away with an 85-62 victory in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference quarterfinal playoff game played at Auraria Event Center.
Smith was a warrior in the paint, making nine of his 16 field goal attempts, but his season-long struggles at the foul line bubbled to the surface again as he made just 3-of-12 free throws. Likewise, UCCS did a reasonably good job of managing Metro State's pressure defense, but still managed 20 turnovers â€" many unforced. The Mountain Lion s shot 47.1 percent (they're now 9-2 when shooting 45 percent or better), but surrendered a 55 percent field goal accuracy, including 56.3 percent from 3-point range.
"We had a great gameplan; we found an easy way to get some buckets on the baseline," said UCCS coach Russ Caton."We just didn't finish all of them. We knew there were going to be some turnovers. The disappointing thing is that we had several unforced turnovers."
Brent Jones added 15 points for UCCS (11-17), while Ben Feilmeier had seven and Rob Howe six. Jordan McClung had five assists.
Brian Minor led Metro State (22-6) with 19 points and six rebounds. Donte Nicholas added 18 points, while Glenn Miller had 12.
Eight turnovers on the first 10 minutes helped the Roadrunners to a 25-12 lead at the 10-minute mark. While UCCS was able to exploit the holes caused by Metro State's famed trap defense by making six of its first 11 field goal attempts, the turnovers caused the Roadrunners to have 19 field goal attempts over the same period.
It took a Brent Jones pull-up 3-pointer to keep the deficit manageable as the Mountain Lions went into halftime trailing 37-26.
A 12-0 Metro State run six minutes into the second half increased the lead to 61-39 and put comeback hopes out of reach.
With the loss, the Mountain Lions are now 0-5 in RMAC playoff games, with three of those defeats coming at the hands of Metro State. The positive is that UCCS has qualified for the playoffs in three of Russ Caton's four years as the head coach, including the past two.
Also positive is that UCCS graduates only two players, Smith and Alex Snyder. Smith, though, will be as missed as he will miss his teammates.
"It's tough," said Smith about playing his final game. "I love the team, I love the game; I'm not sure if it's hit me yet. It's kind of surreal right now."
He leaves a program on the rise.
" think we've proven ourselves to be a playoff-caliber program," said Caton. "Now it's time to set the standards a little bit higher and not settle for getting there.
" I think we have the returning core that understands that and will be ready to do it."
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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