PUEBLO, Colo. (January 5, 2018) - The Colorado State University-Pueblo men's basketball team erased an early 18-point second half deficit by outscoring visiting South Dakota Mines & Technology by 27 in the final 20 minutes to post an 87-74 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference home victory at Massari Arena Friday.
Down 14 at the half and 18 with 14:30 remaining in regulation, the ThunderWolves (6-8, 3-5 RMAC) won the final 14 minutes by a score of 50-19 to stun the Hardrockers (7-7, 4-5 RMAC). The Pack shot 56.3 percent from the field in the second half and finished hitting on 50 percent in the game. On the flip side, South Dakota Mines knocked down 56.7 percent from the field in the opening half and shot at just a 32.1 percent clip in the final frame. A full court press guided the home team to force five Hardrocker turnovers that translated into 11 points off giveaways. Free throws were also a key to the comeback, as CSU-Pueblo went 3-for-6 from the line in the first half, then hit on 18-of-20 in the final 20 minutes. The ThunderWolves trailed 24-8 in the points in the paint category after the first half, but finished the game just down a pair of buckets at 38-34.
Senior Will Newman (G, Hawthorne, Calif.) scored a team-high 19 points and added nine assists with six rebounds. He shot 6-for-11 (54.5%) from the field, hit 7-of-8 free throws (87.5%) and turned the ball over just once in 39 minutes of action.
Four other players scored in double figures, as senior center Mika Nuolivirta (Vantaa, Uusimaa, Finland) totaled 14 points off the bench with four rebounds and two assists. Fellow center Jason Anderson (R-So., Colorado Springs, Colo.) recorded 13 points and pulled down a team-high seven rebounds. He added three assists. Sophomore Donovan Oldham (G, Colorado Springs, Colo.) also totaled 13 points and contributed four rebounds and a block. Senior guard Josh Smith (Colorado Springs, Colo.) finally found his shot and hit three 3-pointers and totaled 11 points, eight during in the second half run.
Freshman Corey Seng (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) was a major spark to the comeback, as his energy and defense aided the Pack. He finished with eight points with four rebounds (two offensive) and two of the three steals the Pack recorded.
The ThunderWolves started the comeback with a 25-6 run from the 14:30 mark down to 9:16 showing on the clock. At that point the home team led 62-61, their first advantage since leading 16-13 seven minutes into the game. During the stretch five different players scored, guided by eight from Nuolivirta and six off the hands of Newman. The Pack also went a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line.
The Hardrockers woke up and scored on three straight possessions and led 67-65 with 7:28 left, but on the next ThunderWolves possession, Nuolivirta converted on an old fashioned 3-point play to hand the home team a 68-67 lead it wouldn't relinquish.
The big man's effort started a 13-1 run that lifted the ThunderWolves a 78-68 lead with 4:04 left. Five different players notched a point in the run, as the Pack staved off a Hardrocker comeback in the final minutes in a 13-point victory.
CSU-Pueblo will need to rest up for a Saturday rematch of last week's opponent, Black Hills State University. The contest Dec. 30 ended with a 78-54 Pack setback after losing the second half 42-21. Saturday's game is slated for a 7:30 p.m. start and is District 70 Night, so all students/faculty/staff are FREE.
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As a member of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, Colorado State University – Pueblo competes in 22 varsity sports in NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletics.