Mountain Lions win first RMAC title in school history

March 9, 2015

Jonathan Toman
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The face of the RMAC is officially located in Colorado Springs, and two years ago, that didn’t seem possible.

UCCS took down two-time reigning champions Metro State 82-65 on March 7 in Denver to become the 2015 RMAC Shootout champions. In 2012-13, the Mountain Lions won five games.

UCCS overcame early turnovers to defeat Metro, who had defeated UCCS every time they played until this season, when the Mountain Lions beat Metro at home on Dec. 12 and then in the tournament final.

“We finally got one and that feels sweet,” said head coach Jeff Culver. “It’s nice to beat the best, and they’ve been the best for some time.”

The Mountain Lions overcame unsuccessful recent history in the Auraria Events Center, where they had fallen the previous three times, including the 2014 RMAC Shootout final and by a point in the regular season finale on Feb. 28.

“I was tired of finishing in second place.” said tournament MVP Derrick White. “I was motivated to find a way to get up there.”

Two three-pointers in a row from Alex Welsh gave UCCS a 54-41 lead with 15 minutes left, and senior Alex Koehler hit two key three-pointers, his only shots of the game, down the stretch to help seal the victory.

A three from White that was almost from the Roadrunner logo in the center of the court gave the Mountain Lions a 75-61 lead with 3:08 remaining.

Culver saw a different performance from his team this time compared to the one point loss Feb. 28.

“I felt like today we played much more like our game,” he said.

RMAC player of the year Mitch McCarron and Derrick White dueled all night, with the two scoring 16 points each in the first half. But White outpaced McCarron in the second half, finishing with 37 points to McCarron’s 27.

That 2012-13 season molded UCCS, according to White.

“We had a lot of hard losses but that shaped us, it’s exciting to see how far we’ve come.”

With the win, the Mountain Lions will officially move on to the NCAA tournament after garnering the automatic bid from the RMAC. Their opponent was not determined at press time.

Culver knows that the RMAC plays a key role in preparing the team for games with national importance.

“We love being in this conference. It really does get you ready for the national stage.”

White is already looking forward to the next challenge, the NCAA tournament.

“We have to understand that this is not the end,” he said.