Fort Lewis College dominated the first half Friday night. The referees dominated the second.
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs made enough winning plays down the stretch to secure a 100-99 victory at Fort Lewis College’s Whalen Gymnasium in a men’s college basketball game that saw 86 free throws, including 59 in the game’s final 7 minutes, 31 seconds. There were also four technical fouls issued in the game, two on UCCS and one on Fort Lewis star senior Marquel Beasley that fouled him out with 2:14 to play.
The Skyhawks (7-8 2-6 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) led by as many as 20 points in the first half and carried a 55-39 lead into halftime behind nearly 63 percent shooting. Everything changed in the second half, when UCCS (9-6, 6-2 RMAC) held FLC to 33.3 percent shooting. FLC also was called for five fouls in the first 2:10 of the second half. It was a whistle show from there.
The NCAA record for most combined free throws is 130, set by Arizona and Northern Arizona on Jan. 26, 1953.
The Mountain Lions scored 61 points in the second half to find the victory.
“It’s really hard. There were some turning points in the game that were taken away from the players,” FLC head coach Bob Pietrack said. “All I can say is that if you were at the game, you saw what happened. You want the players to be able to decide the game.”
FLC had gone 12-of-13 from the foul line until the final 7:31, when the Skyhawks went 25-of-33. Those misses proved costly in the one-point loss.
“We can’t give up 61 points in the second half of a game,” Pietrack said. “We made a lot of free throws tonight, we just didn’t make enough of them.”
FLC maintained a seven-point lead with three minutes to play before the Mountain Lions could chip closer. After Beasley’s technical, UCCS claimed a 87-86 lead with 2:15 to go. A late whistle came in after DaRaun Clark had made a jumper, and Beasley reacted to the late call. On the other end, Clark was called for a technical of his own only seconds later for a hand-check foul, and he reacted to the call.
FLC reclaimed an 88-87 lead after going only 2-of-4 at the foul line. The Skyhawks stretched that to 92-97 when Brandon Boatwright, a redshirt freshman who scored a game-high 22 points behind 12-of-12 foul shooting, made a pair of free throws after Alex Semadeni had made a big basket and Wyatt Hayes soared for a rebound to get FLC the ball back.
But Elijah Ross and answered back with a three-point play to steal momentum right back. Ross proved huge in the game’s final minutes, and he finished with 13 points.
After Kireed Johnson went 1-of-2 at the line for FLC, the Skyhawks led 95-92 with 1:04 to play. But Padiet Wang made a beautiful move to get to the basket for a dunk that cut FLC’s lead back to one.
Another Ross layup got UCCS within 97-96, but he missed a free throw that would have tied the game. FLC guard A.J. Sparks brought the ball up the floor and was hit in the head and then again was fouled while driving to the basket, but the refs decided to not call a foul for the first time in more than three minutes of action, and UCCS got a fastbreak chance. It led to a wide-open Wang 3-pointer that gave UCCS a 99-97 lead with 24 seconds to play.
“Padiet doesn’t need to score a lot for us,” UCCS head coach Jeff Culver said. “He impacts the game a lot of different ways, but he’s always there for a big shot. He’s hit a few game winners already, and we need him for those impact ones. Absolutely huge shot in the game right there.”
Semadeni went 2-of-2 at the foul line after a soft foul was called when he drove to the basket, and the game was tied with 14 seconds to go. Ross then dribbled the ball down the floor and attacked with 5 seconds to play. He drew a foul on FLC’s Will Wittman on a close block/charge decision, and he went to the line and made 1-of-2 free throws to win the game. A last-second heave by Semadeni went off the backboard to end the game.
“This was only (Ross’) second game back for us after being out a bunch,” Culver said. “He showed signs of being confident, attacking the basket. They switched out bigs on him, and we had to go smaller with guys fouled out. That opened up space for him to attack the basket and do what he does best with impactful drives to get to the free-throw line.”
UCCS shot 30-of-41 at the foul line in the game and made 12-of-25 from 3. Wang scored 19 while Brandon Malone finished with 18, including a pair of big 3s in the second half. Blen Avdili added 16 points in the win.
FLC ourebounded the Mountain Lions 40-21, but it didn’t matter in a game with 64 fouls called.
Semadeni gave FLC 19 points, while Beasley finished with 14, 10 of which came in the first half. FLC wasn’t able to get him the ball inside late, and the referees didn’t allow him to play the kind of interior game in which he strives.
The Skyhawks, who have lost three conference overtime games and now a game by one point, have to face Colorado School of Mines (11-3, 8-0 RMAC) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
“The sun is going to come up, and you gotta play again,” Pietrack said. “We know who we’re playing, the best team in the league. So, we’re gonna keep playing hard and see what we can do.”