Maverick men rout UCCS

Colorado Mesa University’s men’s basketball team played workmanlike basketball Saturday night, methodically putting away the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs 84-60 to win its fourth straight Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference game.

The Mavericks (11-3, 8-2 RMAC) never trailed and shot 62 percent from the field against the Mountain Lions.

“We just kept the momentum going that we talked about (Friday) night,” CMU associate head coach Andy Shantz said.

“Sometimes it’s hard to tell, but it looks like the guys are getting it and seeing success, and the next night they backtrack for whatever reason. But their eyes are wide open; they did a great job sharing the ball and working until we got the shot we wanted.”

Jeff Hart scored a game-high 22 points in 23 minutes of playing time for Mesa on 
9-of-11 shooting, including all four 3-pointers he attempted.

“Jeff was great all weekend,” Shantz said. “He does everything well. He can shoot the 3, he cuts so well, and he finishes with his left hand better than anyone we have. Jeff is our best cutter by far; he’s really picked that up and gets some easy buckets around the basket.”

Colton Burgon added 18 points and Mike Melillo 15. Burgon made 8 of 12 shots, Melillo 7 of 10.

Melillo hit his first shot of the night, a 3-pointer 22 seconds into the game, and the Mavericks were on their way to building a 21-point lead. Daniel Estes came up with a steal and a breakaway layup with 6:31 to play in the first half for a 34-13 advantage.

“We’ve been trying to talk to Mike about not just settling,” Shantz said. “He settles into being a jump shooter, but he’s 6-5 and long and athletic. Around the basket he finishes better than almost anyone we have.

“We’re trying to get him to cut with pace, and when he does that, he’s a hard guard. He can pass and cut and finish. We want him to become more of an all-around player instead of just standing and shooting.”

UCCS (2-11, 2-7) cut the lead to nine, 39-30, at halftime by going on a 17-5 run over the final six minutes. Derrick White, who finished with 17 points, hit a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer.

The Mavericks, who shot 55 percent from the field in the first half, were even better in the second, making 19 of 27 (70.4 percent).

The defense, which allowed the Mountain Lions to shoot 43 percent in the first half, improved in the second half, limiting Colorado Springs to 33 percent shooting (10 of 30).

Colorado Mesa outscored the Mountain Lions 45-30 in the final 20 minutes and had a 25-point lead, 82-57, when Mac Alexander hit a layup with 1:48 to play.

After dropping two road games to end 2012, the Mavericks returned from the break determined to play better, especially on the road.

They’re in fourth place in the RMAC, two games behind undefeated Metro State and Adams State and one behind Fort Lewis.

They have a two-game lead on their next opponent, Western State Colorado, which lost both games on the road trip to UCCS and CSU-Pueblo.

The Mavericks trailed for only 22 seconds all weekend, one possession against CSU-Pueblo on Friday.

“We’re starting to get into a rhythm,” Shantz said. “Every coach early in the season is trying to figure out what your team is. Hopefully you get better as you go and you can go on a run. Our kids are doing that. They’re a really close team. They really like each other, and you can tell by the way they play.”


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