UCCS Mountain Lions basketball earns sweep

By Joe Paisley Updated: December 20, 2013 at 11:54 pm • Published: December 20, 2013 | 10:45 pm 0

The Colorado-Colorado Springs men remember last season's 5-21 campaign well.

But they certainly made their fans forget during a dominating performance Friday night.

With the 92-75 win over New Mexico Highlands, the Mountain Lions improved to 6-3 with one game left before the holiday break. The women cruised to an earlier 77-55 victory for the home sweep.

"Last year is still part of who we are as a program," men's coach Jeff Culver said. "Everyone on the team last year remembers the tough losses. That fires us."

Both the UCCS men and women showed off good scoring balance, sound defense and won the rebounding battle against their Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference foes.

"We executed our game plan," said junior guard Tim Billingsley (17 points). "It is very tough to win on the road in this league so one of our goals is to go undefeated at home," he said. "We broke the season down into smaller parts and we thought 7-3 would be a good start. We have a chance to do that Saturday against Western (New Mexico) which would be huge."

A jumper and two 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions by Billingsley sparked a 14-3 spurt in the opening three minutes of the second half that put the men ahead 60-39. Highlands, 5-4, 2-3, never threatened again and UCCS improved to 3-0 at home.

The UCCS women never trailed by containing the Cowgirl guards.

"We knew coming in that they are a team that likes to drive into the paint to create offense," said junior Abby Kirchoff, who recorded team highs in points (18) and rebounds (nine). "We knew we had to keep them out of the middle."

Instead, the Cowgirls had to shoot from outside where only Katie Gannon (team-high 12 points) had any success with four 3-pointers.

"The players did a good job following our scout report," coach Corey Laster said. "The key for us was denying their penetration and then getting out on their shooters. That was important because they are a team that gets a lot of points off offensive rebounds."

UCCS looked ready to blow out the Cowgirls (4-4, 1-4), jumping out to a 26-8 lead on a 3-pointer by Gabby Ramirez with 8:27 left in the first half.

The Mountain Lions' zone defense did a good job closing off lanes into the paint and the Cowgirls could not find their outside touch until the final seven minutes of the half.

Then, Highlands reeled off 18 points in about three minutes to trim that 26-8 deficit to 33-26 with 3:24 remaining.

But the Cowgirls would get no closer against UCCS (3-6, 2-3).

"We came in focusing on making good shot selections," said Ramirez, who scored 13 points, including three 3-pointers.

Jeri Pikul added 14 points while three others - forwards Sammi Gentile and Sam Patterson and guard Jessica Kienitz - were a basket from double figures as well.

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