The Skyhawks didn’t shoot particularly well from the free throw line Friday, except when it really counted.
The Fort Lewis College men’s basketball team only made 62 percent from the line in their Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference opener against UC-Colorado Springs on Friday in Colorado Springs, but the Skyhawks hit 7 of 8 down the stretch and locked up a 72-69 win when Mountain Lions’ leading scorer Derrick White missed the tying 3-pointer as time expired.
“It was a hard-fought victory,” FLC head coach Bob Hofman said. “I wasn’t really pleased with a lot of things regarding the night, but we hung in and did what we had to do.”
After trailing 36-30 at the half, FLC’s Nick Tomsick got the Skyhawks going in the second. He scored most of his game-high 21 points in that frame, including tying the game at 37-all with a 3-pointer and making four consecutive free throws – two of them from a UCCS technical foul – in the final 40 seconds.
“He made some shots in the second half,” Hofman said.
Then, Marcus Ayala made three of four more to finish with 12 points and stamp the final score.
Alex Herrera also did his part, putting the Skyhawks back ahead after they fell behind 64-61 with 2 minutes, 43 seconds remaining. Herrera, an Ignacio High School alumnus, scored a rebound tip-in with 1:33 to go to finish with 20 points, eight rebounds and four blocks.
“He really held us together,” Hofman said of the 6-10 sophomore from Ignacio.
The rest of it was defense.
After allowing 16 points to White, a freshman, in the first half, the Skyhawks held UCCS’s go-to guy Friday to just two points in the second half, giving their offense an opportunity to control the pace.
Hofman said assistant coach Bob Pietrack noticed that White scored nearly all of his points driving to the right, and the Skyhawks made the adjustment.
“(Pietrack) really got into our players about making (White) go left,” Hofman said about the key defensive adjustment.
“Defensively, we played much better in the second half,” Hofman said.
FLC (4-0, 1-0 RMAC) struggled down low, too, getting outrebounded 43-35 and allowing a much-improved Mountain Lions team, as Hofman said, to pick up 20 offensive boards. Alex Welsh led the way with 13 of those rebounds to go with his 16 points for a double-double.