Emphasis on Trust Pays Off in Win over Cougars

By Doug Fitzgerald published December 11, 2010

From University of Colorado at Colorado Springs coach Russ Caton's perspective, Saturday's game was about trust. Coming off a miserable performance against Colorado School of Mines on Friday in which the UCCS offense bogged down time and again, Caton emphasized to his team the need to trust their offense as well as each other.

The lesson struck home. The Mountain Lions played a disciplined, patient game in defeating the Colorado Christian Cougars Saturday evening at Gallogly Events Center.

"I feel like we got caught up in trying too hard to just win instead of worrying about other things that are more important to the game," said Caton. "We approached this game with a little better mentality. There was a lot more trust in each other out there on the floor tonight.

"The biggest difference I saw, and we talked about this before the game, is making the guys around you better."

There was no shortage of that. Brent Jones had his second double-double of the season with 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Mountain Lions, who improved to 3-5 overall and 1-3 in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play. The senior from West Linn, Ore., previously had a 26-point, 11-rebound performance against Bethany on Nov. 27.

Luke Hristou added 17 points Saturday in what was his first starting assignment of the season. The senior from Sandy, Utah, came into the game second on the team in scoring at 10.4 points per game as the Mountain Lions' sixth man. Hristou missed his only free throw attempt Saturday, ending a streak of 14 consecutive made foul shots.

Also coming up big for UCCS were Ben Feilmeier, who hit four 3-pointers and scored 16 points, and Damar Hill, who had five assists. All 10 Mountain Lions who participated scored, with the bench going 6-for-7 from the field and scoring 20 points, led by Chase Richards' seven.

Abram Ziemer, who played for UCCS in his freshman season in 2007-08, led Colorado Christian (2-4, 1-2 RMAC) with 21 points. Josh McBeth and B.J. Wortham each added 10 off the bench, while McBeth had a team-best six rebounds.

Ziemer made his first six shots, five of which were 3-pointers, as Colorado Christian maintained a lead throughout most of the first half. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Feilmeier trimmed a seven-point deficit to one at 31-30 with 3:05 remaining in the period.

After Ziemer converted a layup, UCCS' Jordan McClung followed suit and, one possession later, Rob Howe made a free throw to tie the game at 35. McBeth made the second of two free throw attempts to put CCU back up one before Hill found Hristou for a 3-pointer as the first half ran out to give the Mountain Lions their first lead of the game at 38-36.

"The three before half was definitely big," said Hristou. "It was a momentum shifter for us since we had been trailing the entire game."

Indeed it was. UCCS opened the second half 15-8. After leading by as many as 12, an 8-1 Cougar run trimmed the advantage to five at 64-59 with 4:42 left.

That's as close as it would get. The Mountain Lions made five of their final six field goal attempts and pulled away.

"I think tonight we really stepped up and played smarter more than anything," said Hristou. "We used the clock, got some good shots and drew some fouls."

The Mountain Lions, who attacked the hoop at every opportunity, attempted 30 free throws and converted 23. The jump-shooting Cougars went to the line for just 15 tries, making 11.

After shooting 50 percent in the first half, Colorado Christian made just 33.3 percent of its attempts in the second. UCCS big men jumped out much more aggressively on the pick-and-roll to deny the easy shot.

"(Three-pointers) come and go and you live and die by that quite a bit," said Caton. "We did a better job of taking that away from them as well."

The emphasis on making others better resulted in UCCS getting 19 assists on 25 field goals, a very high percentage. Caton hopes his team can take that mentality on the road next weekend when the Mountain Lions take on New Mexico Highlands and Western New Mexico.

"It was a solid performance for us tonight," said Caton. "Hopefully it gives us some confidence in how the game should be played."

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Abram ZiemerAbram Ziemer10GFr.
Luke HristouLuke Hristou35F
Luke HristouLuke Hristou35FSo.
Luke HristouLuke Hristou35F
Brent JonesBrent Jones10F
Brent JonesBrent Jones10FSr.
Chase RichardsChase Richards12G
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