Men’s basketball splits four-game stretch, go 2-2

As the new seasons of winter sports commence, UCCS Men’s Basketball stayed on a consistent path to start the new year, going 2-2 over their previous four games.  

     The Mountain Lions began 2022 with a blowout victory over the Westminster College Griffins, 89-59, on Jan. 1. The 30-point win marked the largest triumph over an RMAC opponent this season. 

     Scoring efficiently all night, UCCS shot over 51% from the field and 44% from behind the arc, as sophomore guard Alijah Comithier, sophomore forward Wyatt Dolberry and redshirt senior guard Geoff Kelly knocked down three three-pointers each en route to their first win of the new year. 

     On Jan. 8, UCCS followed up their dominant performance by traveling to Denver to play their first ranked squad of the year in the 17th ranked team in Division II basketball: the Regis Rangers. 

     Behind a solid defensive performance that held the Rangers to a 38.9 field goal percentage in the first half, the Mountain Lions found themselves looking for a potential upset with their 36-34 lead at the break. 

     As the second half began, UCCS maintained their lead through five minutes, with junior guard Jon’il Fugett finding a pair of Mountain Lions for buckets, while earning one of his own. 

     However, the Rangers got open space in the following minutes, enough to take back the lead and keep it towards the end of the game. Regis had their largest lead of the game with only 1:56 remaining on the game clock. 

     Despite an 8-2 run that brought the game within a single possession in the final two minutes, the clock hit zeroes after a three (and a lengthy review) from freshman guard Jezza McKenzie, and the Mountain Lions lost to Regis, 78-77. 

     This marked UCCS’ eighth loss in the last 10 games against the Rangers, and the first losing streak by either team in this matchup since the Mountain Lions won six straight in 2016. 

     Following a tough finish to the Rangers, the Mountain Lions geared up for their first of four straight home games, going against the CSU-Pueblo Thunderwolves for the second time this season on Jan. 15. UCCS defeated CSU-Pueblo earlier in the season, 76-59, to open up RMAC conference play. 

Forward #10 Cameron Underwood at the basket against CSU Pueblo on Jan. 15. Photo by Lillian Davis.

     The Thunderwolves raced out to an 11-4 lead to open the game, which eventually turned into a 33-22 lead at the half. The Mountain Lions were plagued by their inability to make their shots, shooting just 35% from the field over the course of the game. 

     UCCS would fall behind by 15 points, the largest margin of the night for either team. But, after a few tough baskets from Comithier and Fugett, as well as getting some key stops, the Mountain Lions clawed back to within three with only twelve seconds remaining in the game.  

     Unable to force an inbounds steal, the Mountain Lions fell victim to the clock and lost their second straight game, 72-67. Fugett’s career high of 5 rebounds and freshman forward Mac Stodart’s career scoring high of 13 points couldn’t propel UCCS to a win. 

     To close the four-game stretch before a week-long break, the Mountain Lions were at home again on Jan. 17 to take on the Adams State Grizzlies, another RMAC opponent whom UCCS defeated earlier in the year, 85-78. 

     After eight minutes of defensive basketball, the Mountain Lions went on a 15-3 run and a 33-16 first-half streak to take an 18-point lead entering halftime. From there, UCCS took advantage of moving the ball strategically and outassisted the Grizzlies 22-4 at the end of the game. 

     The Mountain Lions never looked back and scored 100 points against a conference opponent for the first time this season, taking a blowout win over Adams State, 103-65. 

     After Stodart’s career night against the Thunderwolves, he followed it up by almost doubling his highest total of the season, scoring 24 points on 72% shooting and knocking down five three-pointers as well.  

     This marks the Mountain Lions’ seventh win over the previous eight matchups between the two schools, and the first time either school scored 100 or more points against the other in program history. 

     UCCS will continue their four-game home stand in the RMAC on Jan. 21 and 22, each at 7:30 p.m., when they face off against the MSU-Denver Roadrunners and the Colorado Christian Cougars for Make-A-Wish Weekend.