DENVER, Colo. - CSU-Pueblo stepped up to a litmus test on its young season Saturday, facing sixth-ranked conference foe Metro State, and falling just short in a wild back-and-forth affair by a 94-92 score.
The ThunderWolves rallied from a 10-2 deficit to start the game and quickly recovered, going on a 7-0 run and setting the stage for a game that saw both squads match one another blow-for-blow for the remainder of the game.
Using five first-half three-pointers by Dylan Fritsch (Sr., Albuquerque, N.M.) and a game-tying three at the first-half buzzer by Julian Caldwell (Jr., Ontario, Calif.), CSU-Pueblo went into the break tied at 45-45, shooting 50 percent from the field in the first frame.
Neither team would take a lead by more than four points for the first 15 minutes of the second half, but Metro State finally began to pull away in the final five minutes.
As Metro held a tenuous 77-75 lead with 5:28 left, the Roadrunners went on a game-changing 11-2 run to jump out to a 10-point lead, up 88-78 with 2:48 remaining.
But the ThunderWolves rallied to make things interesting, going on a 10-4 of its own to cut the lead to 92-88 with 53 seconds left.
After a five-second violation by Metro State, Fritsch came back to life after a down second half, sinking a cold-blooded three to bring the ThunderWolves within one, 92-91, with 47 seconds left.
CSU-Pueblo used the tactic of calling off the full-court press, and though Metro State missed the ensuing shot, Metro State's Mitch McCarron used a tip-in with 13 seconds left to put Metro back up 94-91.
On the final possession, Metro State committed a foul away from the ball, forcing the Pack to hit a free throw and miss the second one on purpose to make up the three-point deficit with just three seconds left. CSU-Pueblo managed to wrangle the rebound off the free-throw, and Nate Tigner (Sr., Fort Worth, Texas) actually got a shot off and was fouled as the final seconds ticked away, giving the Pack one last chance with two free throws with no time on the clock, trailing 94-92.
But Tigner missed the first shot, and needing to miss on purpose once again, committed a lane violation on the second shot to end the ball game.
The heart-wrenching defeat gives the Pack its first conference loss of the season, dropping the ThunderWolves to 5-3 overall and 3-1 in RMAC play, sacrificing its first-place ownership in the RMAC standings.
CSU-Pueblo will return home next weekend when it hosts Western New Mexico and New Mexico Highlands at Massari Arena.