DENVER -- Brandon Jefferson scored a career-high 37 points as No. 1 Metro State edged Colorado-Colorado Springs 76-72 on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA tournament at the Auraria Event Center. The Roadrunners improved to 29-1 overall with their 26th consecutive win, while UCCS fell to 21-9 to end its season. The Mountain Lions improved from going 5-21 last season and reached the postseason this year for first time in school history.
It was the third consecutive Saturday and fourth time this season the Roadrunners have faced UCCS after MSU Denver topped the Mountain Lions last weekend for the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference tournament championship. Metro State is 45-0 all-time vs. UCCS.
Jefferson's 37 points were the second-most in Metro State's NCAA tournament history behind Luke Kendall's 38 in 2002 in the regional championship game at South Dakota State. The 37 points were also three away from Reggie Evans' school record of 40 set in 2010.
Jefferson made 10-of-20 from the floor and 15-of-15 at the free throw line.
Mitch McCarron had 19 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. Nicholas Kay was held to just 1-of-8 shooting, but led all players with 10 rebounds.
Metro State reversed its rebounding margin from last Saturday (-10) to outrebound the Mountain Lions 41-to-31, helping overcome a poor shooting night of just 38.5 percent. The Roadrunners also committed just six turnovers on Saturday.
MSU Denver led by as many as 11 points in the first half and held a nine-point lead at halftime, despite nine lead changes in the half. A 16-4 run gave the Roadrunners their largest lead of the game at 39-28 with 2:40 left in the half.
After letting the Mountain Lions get within three points, Metro State looked to blow the game open with a 6-0 run capped by a dunk by McCarron with 16:17 left for a 52-43 lead. But UCCS caught fire and took its first lead of the second half on a 3-pointer by Tim Billingsley with 5:38 left at 62-61.
The Mountain Lions never led again, though Metro State's lead was never larger than four. Jefferson sunk a pair of free throws with 2.3 seconds left to seal the win.