Mavericks have fun again and end three-game skid

What a relief.

That’s how the Colorado Mesa University men’s basketball team felt Saturday night after ending a three-game skid with a 75-50 victory over the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs at Brownson Arena.

“When you lose three in a row like we did, it’s depressing,” senior Michael Bear said. “As much as we put into every day, practices, everything we go through to get ready for the season, to lose three in a row like that with the team we have is agonizing.

“To finally get a good win over a team that is playing well is such a relief.”

Bear had his second double-double of the season with a game-high 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Mavericks (8-6, 6-4 RMAC). Colton Burgon added 17 points and Landon Vermeer had 10 off the bench.

The difference Saturday night was more about having fun again, CMU coach Jim Heaps said.

“I wanted to see them play with joy,” Heaps said. “It seemed like since Christmas, I don’t know if it’s the pressure of self-expectations or not wanting to let the coaching staff down, but when that happens, you play with a fear of failure.

“I told them you already know how I am. I’m going to yell. You guys have to play and enjoy it. You only have these very few opportunities to compete as college basketball players.”

Mesa appeared to be scared of losing again early as the Mountain Lions (6-9, 5-4 RMAC) jumped out to a 23-13 lead with 8:13 left in the first half. UCCS hit five 3-pointers to build the lead.

It wasn’t a fear of losing though. The Mesa guards simply needed to trust the post players would be there to back them up in case a UCCS guard would blow by them while they were closing out on the 3-point shooters.

“You have to pressure the ball,” Heaps said. “We usually guard to about the 3 (point line) and make them beat us over the top. You could see we were stopping our closeouts a little bit short. They were deep and over the top, but we had to understand what we wanted to do.”

Bear hit back-to-back 3-pointers to get the Mavericks going offensively. A few minutes later, the defense tightened up and the Mavs went on a 10-0 run to take a 29-27 lead. Although UCCS ended the run with a 3-pointer, CMU closed the first half on a 6-0 run to lead 37-32 at halftime.

“I had a shooting slump last weekend and last night,” Bear said. “I was really focused on not shooting on the perimeter and scoring at the basket. The shot found me and I have the confidence to shoot that shot.”

UCCS hit back-to-back 3-pointers to open the second half, but CMU quickly answered with an 8-0 run for a 50-38 lead with 14:07 left.

“It was one of the bigger defensive games for us (post players),” Colton Burgon said. “(The guards) had to stay out on the 3-point shooters, so we had to help (with dribble penetration) and make sure we didn’t get beat ourselves.”

The Mavs extended its run to 14 before UCCS answered. By then, CMU led 56-38.

The only thing left to do was get sophomore Mac Alexander his first basket. With 1:59 left, he hit a 3-pointer — off the glass.

“He called bank on that,” said Heaps, who couldn’t help but smile when the crowd erupted. “I heard him.”

Alexander played football at CMU before an injury ended his career. He walked onto the basketball team this season.

“Mac is a great kid. He was a really good football player and had that taken away from him with an injury,” Heaps said.

“Having an opportunity to play basketball at this level, you love it when one of those guys gets an opportunity to play. You can tell how popular he is when the crowd responded when he hit that shot.”


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