COLORADO SPRINGS – Jessica and Danielle Brown scored 25 of their combined 29 points in the first half as the Mountain Lions built a big lead and held on to defeat the NCAA Division I Air Force Falcons 66-65 Wednesday evening in an exhibition game.
It was UCCS’ first win over a Division I team since at least 1997.
In just one season and one game, UCCS coach Corey Laster has now beaten a defending national champion (a 70-67 win over Emporia State on Nov. 27, 2010) and a Division I team.
In the first half, Clune Arena suffered a full-on Brownout that had nothing to do with electricity. At least not unless you count the charge generated by the Brown twins, who combined for 25 points in the period. Jessica also added six rebounds, six assists and two steals, both of which turned into breakaway layups.
“Jess and Danielle got us off to a great start with their dribble penetration,” said UCCS coach Corey Laster. “They made shots early, which gave us confidence and made a big difference.”
Air Force employed a full-court, trapping defense that resulted a lot of UCCS turnovers, but with the tradeoff of a lot of baskets in transition and poor defensive integrity in the half court. Although they did surrender 12 turnovers over the first 16 minutes, the Mountain Lions did a very good job exploiting the press, making 17 of their first 28 shots.
The result was that UCCS led by as many as 21 in the opening period as a Lauren Wolfinger pull-up jumper made it 37-16 at the 5:18 mark.
“Our emphasis was to get off to a good start and I was super happy with our start,” said Laster. “We handled their pressure initially and actually forced them to drop back out off of their press.”
The Falcons settled into a halfcourt defense and worked their way back to cut the halftime deficit to 15 at 42-27.
But Air Force wasn’t about to go away. An Alicia Leipprandt four-point play at 8:52 cut the lead to 55-46. That was followed by a conventional three-point play Camille Thompson that made it 55-49 33 seconds later.
“We talked at halftime that they were going to come out and really come after us,” said Laster. “We weren’t able to go as deep down our bench as I think we will later on down the line, so I thought we got a little tired in the second half.”
With just over two minutes remaining, two free throws by Thompson got the Falcons to within three at 63-60.
UCCS freshman Abby Kirchoff answered with two free throws, but a Michelle Ivey jumper again cut the gap to three. It shrank to two after Leipprandt hit one of two free throws with 38 seconds remaining.
Jessica Brown made a free throw with 13 seconds left, giving the Falcons the final possession with a chance to tie for the first time. Thompson’s 3-point attempt missed and although Jamela Satterfield hit a putback just ahead of the buzzer, it was one point too few.
Jessica Brown finished with 14 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals, while sister Danielle led UCCS with 15 points. Kirchoff added 12 points off the bench and Wolfinger had 11 points.
Leipprandt led Air Force with 18 points and five steals. Ivey had a game-high 11 rebounds.
Laster said that, while the Mountain Lions got very good production from the bench on Wednesday, the team’s depth will increase even further as young players get more acclimated to the collegiate game. Development of that depth will be important as the Mountain Lions will open the season on Nov. 11 in St. Paul, Minn., and will have to play eight of their first nine games on the road. Four of those nine will be against teams that received votes in the preseason national poll.
The lone home game in that stretch will be a Nov. 19 matchup against West Texas A&M.
The payoff for the tough early schedule is that UCCS will play nine of its final 13 at home, putting it in good position to make a postseason run.