The Chadron State College men shot 72 percent (18-for-25) from the field in the first half on Saturday at home in the Chicoine Center, against the visiting University of Colorado Colorado Springs. However the Mountain Lions found their bearings from range in the second half, and took advantage of 12 points off of turnovers to overtake the Eagles 74-70 in a thrilling finish.
CSC held a double digit lead for nearly 16 minutes, going into the half up 45-32, and leading by as many as 18, early in the second period.
“I’m proud,” said coach Houston Reed. “We wanted to come out and be the aggressor so we tried to push the basketball harder and pick it up defensively. We got out and ran, and forced their defense to stretch and chase us. There was more room inside for our posts, and more room for our drivers. I’m curious to get back and look at film to see how we executed the game plan down the stretch.”
Momentum shifted midway through the final 20 minutes. The Mountain Lions began chipping away at the Eagles’ lead with back-to-back threes by Ian McDonald at 15:53.
CSC’s Leigh Saffin responded with a big three at 13:01, and Adoum Mbang came in at 11:19 to provide some resistance to the comeback. The junior big man showed great agility around the hoop, in only his second game returning from a lengthy absence, getting four quick points and blocking a pair of shots, He had two free throws at 6:58 which built the Chadron State lead back to 15 at 6:58 in the game.
UCCS, however, continued to heat up, going on a 19-2 run where they scored field goals on seven of their next nine possessions, and hit three consecutive bombs from outside the arc, to take a two point lead at 1:16 remaining.
Jordan Mills‘ layup with 43 seconds showing tied the game at 70 apiece. UCCS’s Justin Smith took the ball downcourt and laid in a shot with 34 ticks left. He was fouled but missed the try, giving the Eagles hope.
A miss by the Eagles and another missed opportunity for UCCS at the free throw line gave CSC one last chance with 11 seconds, but they could not capitalize.
“When you’re building a program,” said Reed, “and trying to turn things around, the only way to get over the hump is to win one of these. You’ve got to gain confidence by demonstrating ability, and that’s when you play to win, versus playing not to lose.”
Chadron State fell to 3-22, 1-18 RMAC, while UCCS breaks dead even at 12-12 overall, 9-9 in conference play.
A quick turnaround is ahead for the Eagles, who host Regis University on Tuesday evening.
Score by half:
UCCS 32 42 —-74
Chadron State 45 25 —-70
UCCS—Elijah Ross 17, Justin Smith 15, Dalton Walker 12, Isaiah Wilson 8, Ian MacDonald 6, Brandon Malone 5, Jonathan Barnes 3, Padiet Wang 3, Titus Reed 2, Ryan VanPelt 2, Ed Bourke 1. Totals: 23-63 (11-29) 17-26 74 points, 37 rebounds, 10 turnovers.
Chadron State—Jaisean Jackson 23, Jeremy Ruffin 14, Jordan Mills 12, Adoum Mbang 9, Leigh Saffin 6, Eric Jamerman 2, Michael Johnson 2, Matt Reader 2. Totals: 29-51 (2-6) 10-14 70 points, 33 rebounds, 15 turnovers.