UCCS men's basketball team earns historic victory

By: JUSTIN FELISKO sports@gazette.com
March 4, 2014 Updated: March 5, 2014 at 9:51 am
photo - UCCS won the game 87-85 in the final seconds of the game on Tuesday, March 4, 2014. .(The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)
UCCS won the game 87-85 in the final seconds of the game on Tuesday, March 4, 2014. .(The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett) 

It was the first home playoff game in UCCS' history and it will go down as one of the most memorable games in the Mountain Lions' 26-year history.

Sophomore Derrick White sent the 1,144 screaming Mountain Lions fans at Gallogly Events Center into euphoria by making the go-ahead free throw with 0.8 seconds remaining to break an 85-85 tie and lead No. 3 seed UCCS to its first playoff victory in school history, an 87-85 win in the quarterfinals of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shoot Out over No. 6 Adams State on Tuesday.

White helped UCCS (20-7) survive Chuck Cole's game-tying 3-pointer with 9.8 seconds remaining by working his way up the court and drawing a foul on Juwan Buchanan when he pulled up for a jumper from inside the 3-point line.

"Yeah it was a pressure situation and that is what I worked for my entire life, to have the ball in your hands and make two free throws to put your team ahead in a playoff game," said the Mountain Lions' lone first-team all-RMAC selection.

White finished with 29 points, 22 coming in the second half, and made 12 of his 15 free throws in the final 20 minutes to recover from a tough first half that saw the standout sophomore record seven points on 2-of-8 shooting due to an aggressive Adams State (17-10) double-team and trap.

UCCS faces No. 2 Colorado Mines on Friday at 5 p.m. at Metro State.

Tuesday's quarterfinal matchup featured the physicality one comes to expect from the playoffs, and sophomore Alex Welsh (20 points), who scored nine points in the final five minutes to help the Mountain Lions overcome an eight-point second-half deficit, was a prime example.

"I told Derrick it's our time. Let's go," Welsh said. "We just tried to spread the floor and I saw some openings."

Prior to White making two free throws to give UCCS an 85-82 lead with 20 seconds remaining, the sophomore struggled to the home sideline with what he later called a left ankle injury. The 6-foot-7 forward also received a black-and-blue left eye from an Adams State elbow, as well as a series of other scrapes and bruises, The game had a combined 44 personal fouls (30 on Adams State) and four technicals.

"It's no surprise that he was ready to play tonight," coach Jeff Culver said. "Obviously Derrick can't do it by himself and I thought Welsh really stood out tonight doing some good things for us."

UCCS trailed 43-38 at halftime.

"I think our guys were overhyped early in the game and credit Adams State for hitting some shots early," Culver said. "We never lost faith and our guys kept playing hard."

Adams State coach Louis Wilson credited UCCS for taking advantage of his team's mistakes.

"When you make mistakes, they make plays," Wilson said. "That's what the top teams in this league do. That's what Mines does. Metro does it better than anybody. I told coach Culver today he has moved into that class as well."

The tide turned when Mike Hemsley was called for his second technical foul with 6:02 left, sparking the home crowd to life.

Tim Billingsley made two free throws to cut the ASU lead to 66-65 before White made two shots from the charity stripe with 5:50 left to give UCCS its first lead since 7:27 remaining in the first half.

White said UCCS thrived off its rowdy student section.

"We fueled off of them and bounced back because of them," White said. "I don't know if we would be in the game if it wasn't for them."

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