Maverick men hoping to solve frustration in RMAC Shootout
It’s been a frustrating season for the Colorado Mesa University men’s basketball team.
At times, the Mavericks proved they can play with anyone. Other times, Mesa stumbled, losing five of six games.
“I think there’s frustration, but at the same time we have still have a chance,” junior center Chandler Burgon said. “You win three games and all of a sudden you’re in the regional tournament.”
Through it all, Mesa can still turn a disappointing season into a rewarding one.
The Mavericks (14-12), seeded seventh in the RMAC Shootout, play at No. 2 seed and 15th-ranked Metro State (22-5) in the RMAC quarterfinals at 7 tonight at the Auraria Events Center in Denver. If Mesa upsets the Roadrunners, then wins two more games this weekend in Pueblo to win the RMAC tournament, the Mavs would make the NCAA Division II tournament.
Metro State defeated Mesa 93-78 in the teams’ first meeting this season in Denver, but Mesa avenged the loss with a 64-47 victory a month later at Brownson Arena.
“I’m sure some people are like, ah, Metro,” Burgon said. “The first time we played them, we didn’t play good defense and we kept it close. The second time we played great defense and beat them by 20. They are a very beatable team. I think we match up great. If I was Metro, I’d be worried to play us. I think a lot of us are excited to prove ourselves.”
Mesa coach Jim Heaps believes the Mavs played their best game of the season in their victory over Metro State.
The Mavericks limited Metro to a season-low 47 points and 28 rebounds even though RMAC preseason player of the year Reggie Evans scored 20 points.
One key was limiting 6-foot-8 junior center Jonathan Morse to four points and zero rebounds.
“That was by far the biggest thing,” Heaps said. “To shut that kid out on the boards is unbelievable. That’s as great an effort as you can hope for. Morse really kicked us at their place. He scored and rebounded. He really set the tone early at their place. Chandler really set the tone at our place. That’s the battle within the war. If we can win (that battle), we have a chance.”
Burgon understands the role Morse plays for the Roadrunners and is up for the challenge.
“I think that is going to be huge, shutting down Morse,” he said. “I was talking to my dad, he said, ‘No pressure, but if you can shut down Morse again, I think you’re going to win.’ It’s going to come down to me and Colton (Burgon) inside and we’re going to have to shut him down. It’s going to take a lot of focus and effort on our part.”
Another key is taking care of the basketball and limiting turnovers.
Mesa is last in the RMAC and third-to-last in the nation in turnover margin (minus 4.19 per game).
“In almost everything we’re in the top four or five in the conference, but in turnover margin we’re dead last,” Heaps said. “That’s the story of the year. If we turn it over 27 times on the road, we’re not going to win. If we turn it over 20 times (tonight), we’re going to lose, I guarantee you. The teams we’re turning it over against are too good and convert them too well.
“The frustrating thing is there’s not a reason for it. We have good enough players we should not be turning the ball over.”
Metro State is first in the RMAC and eighth in the nation in turnover margin (plus 4.78 per game).
“We’ve got to take care of the ball and we’ve got to guard them,” Heaps said. “It’s pretty straight-forward. We give ourselves a chance if we play defense and don’t turn it over.”