In a game that vindicated basketball coaches everywhere preaching free throw shooting, the Mines men’s basketball team jumped out in front of Western State Colorado University early then held the Mountaineers at arms length to hang on for a 94-85 win Saturday at Lockridge Arena.
While the Orediggers only managed to shoot 38% from the field, it was an unfathomable 51-55 shooting from the free throw line that pushed Mines to victory. To put that into more of a perspective, earlier in the night, the Lady Orediggers held the Lady Mountaineers to 54 points over the entire game, one less than the number of free throw attempts the men shot. If the men’s team had just shot free throws, they would have only lost by three to the Lady Mountaineers. Similarly, according to the NBA records, the Los Angeles Lakers currently lead the league in free throw attempts with 27, half of Saturday’s count. And this occurs in an NBA game that is eight minutes longer than a college game and includes NBA referees that have an uncanny ability to send superstars to the charity stripe.
Spurring the free throw outbreak, Western State was whistled for 35 fouls on the night. Each of their five starters had at least four fouls, each member of their team record at least one foul, and two players fouled out. Add that to the fact that Sophomore Brian Muller connected on a perfect 16-16 from the line, and it was enough to push Mines to the win.
Throughout the first half, the game was a battle of runs. Mines jumped early to take a 13-4 before Western State quickly battled back to 17-15. This patterned throughout the first half, with the Orediggers heading into the break with a comfortable 14 point advantage at 42-28.
To start the second session, the Mountaineers wasted no time in fighting back, scoring the half’s first 15 points to reclaim the lead. Muller quickly silenced the momentum and connected on a three-pointer to put Mines back in front. Western State remained close for the rest of the game, but in the end it was too much offense and too much free throw shooting to overcome. At one point, with Mines leading 71-65, Western State looked to stretch the game out by fouling and hoping to buy enough time to make a comeback. Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, they may have not predicted that the Orediggers would be so potent from the foul line. When Mines was ahead by six, there was just 1:37 remaining in the game. The remainder of the game, the Orediggers would shoot 23-24 from the free throw line. In less than two minutes, they would score nearly as many as Western State did in the entire first half and would attempt almost as many free throws as the Lakers do in a full NBA game.
Junior Luke Meisch led the Orediggers in points with a career high 31 points (18-19 from the free throw line). Muller added 26 points and seven rebounds and two assists. Trevor Wages added 15 points while reserve Cesar Mapeli added 10 quality points from the bench. Muller’s 16-16 effort from the line marks a school record for most free throw made in a perfect outing, breaking his previous record of 14. For the team, the 51-55 (93%) sets an RMAC record in both makes and attempts.
With the victory, Mines moves to 11-8 overall and 8-7 in the RMAC. They currently sit at fifth place in the fourteen team conference with seven games remaining in the regular season. The Orediggers now head on a four game road swing beginning at Metro State Friday before returning to Lockridge February 22 to close out their final three games at home.
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