Jan. 27, 2014
Sitting at a 9-5 record entering the weekend games on Jan. 24-25 against Black Hills State and Chadron State at the Gallogly Events Center, the UCCS men’s basketball team has been streaking recently. After a pitter-patter start, the team won five games in a row from Dec. 14 to Jan. 9. Since then they have lost three in a row.
“We’ve come together pretty well,” said Jeff Culver, the team’s head coach. “We’re still very young but we are taking a step forward, we need to be more consistent overall from game to game.”
“We started out hot, but our losing streak really brought us together, we stick together as brothers,” said sophomore forward Alex Welsh. “We come back and work twice as hard.”
“We try to stay one game at a time,” added sophomore guard Derrick White.
An important win, according to Culver, was a victory in Alamosa against Adams State on Dec. 7, which was part of the first weekend with conference games.
“It was on the road, and we didn’t beat them last year,” he said. “It was a key way to start our conference season.”
A key setback Culver characterized as “frustrating” came in the loss in Grand Junction to Colorado Mesa. UCCS was defeated at the buzzer, as a CMU player was able to go coast-to-coast with only four seconds remaining.
“It still sorta stings,” said Culver.
The rest of the season will be filled with something the Mountain Lions haven’t had a lot of recently: home cooking. Counting the home games on Jan. 24 and 25, UCCS is at home for seven of its last 11 regular season contests. They were at home for just six of 15 games to start the season.
“Travel in this conference can take a toll on both the body and mind,” said Culver. “We’re excited about the prospect of students getting back to campus.”
“It’s much more advantageous than the first half,” Culver added. “It’s huge – we sorta survived the first half of the year.”
After finishing last season 5-21, the Mountain Lions were picked to finish ninth in the conference, a prediction Culver thought surprising considering last year’s record.
“The conference respected our young talent,” Culver said. “You can only fly under the radar for so long, so everyone can see what we’re doing. But teams are definitely playing us differently than they did last year.”
The second annual Downtown Classic between UCCS and CSU-Pueblo will be held Feb. 8 at the Colorado Springs City Auditorium.
“I love it,” said Culver. “We are bringing the game to the community, and that has to be a two way street.”
“We can’t sit back on campus. The historic overtones with the building are great, and we get a different crowd. It will be bigger and better than it was last year.”
“I like the old venue, and it’s cool for our parents,” added Welsh. “Last year the students were on break, we’re glad to have them back for this one. And it’s a huge game against our rival.”
This year has been a rebound from a 2012-13 season filled with “heartbreak losses”, according to Culver.
“The group this season expects to win,” he said. “Our goals, hosting a first round playoff game and winning the RMAC, are still very intact. Both of those are still very doable for us.”