Mavs must control tempo against fast-paced Skyhawks
Against certain teams, Roger Walters is OK with the Colorado Mesa University women playing run-and-shoot basketball.
“We’ve got to dictate tempo against those guys,” Walters said of No. 7 Fort Lewis College, which plays the Mavericks at 5:30 tonight at Brownson Arena. Saturday at 5:30, CMU plays host to Adams State, the team that ended Mesa’s season in the RMAC tournament last winter.
“They want to get it up and down the court and get the score in the 80s. We’ve got to do what we did last year in terms of dictating tempo.”
In the Mavs’ final regular-season game last season, they pulled off a 57-51 shocker of then-No. 3 Fort Lewis at Brownson by not allowing the Skyhawks to run their transition game.
“The whole game plan is to do what we did last year,” Walters said. “The first game (at Durango) we didn’t stick to the game plan and got crushed. Second time around, we stuck to the game plan for 40 solid minutes and got it done.”
Fort Lewis (6-1, 3-0 RMAC) will press full-court for 40 minutes, but the Skyhawks don’t necessarily try to create turnovers in the press.
They want teams to use 10-15 seconds to get the ball past mid-court, then get sped up in the half-court offense and either turn it over or take a bad shot. The Skyhawks grab the ball and are off to the races.
“It’s worked really well for them; they have it down to a science,” Walters said.
To counteract the Fort Lewis defense, the Mavericks (6-2, 4-0) need to establish their own defense and turn the transition-happy Skyhawks into a half-court team.
“That will drive them crazy, just like getting into a tennis match, back and forth, will drive us crazy,” Walters said.
CMU allows teams to shoot only 35 percent from the field, and every shot is challenged. Teams shoot only 28.9 percent from the 3-point line against Mesa, riding a six-game winning streak.
“You look at the stats in the conference, we’re No. 1 in (offensive) field goal percentage. There’s a reason why; we work the ball and take great shots,” said Walters, whose team shoots 47.6 percent, 42.5 from the 3-point line, both best in the RMAC. “The good thing is, on the other hand, we’re No. 1 in field goal percentage defense. That’s the reason we’re playing as well as we are.”
He had a feeling the Mavericks would be solid defensively this season for one reason — experience.
Well, two reasons.
“Any time you have Katrina (Selsor) on the floor, you’re pretty good,” he said of the Mavs’ 6-foot-1 junior guard. “I think she’s the best defender in the conference, period. She just wreaks havoc everywhere, no matter what we’re playing.”
The Mavericks play off Selsor’s defensive prowess. She knows when to jump into a passing lane, and her long arms help her deflect passes for nearly 21⁄2 steals per game. She’s a big guard who poses matchup problems on both ends of the floor and is Mesa’s leading rebounder.
Mesa’s matchup zone packs the paint, and Amy Weitzeil has been stellar at controlling opposing teams’ post players. Kelsey Sigl, known for her offense (19.7 points per game), made a conscious effort to become a better defensive player in the offseason, and the two post players clog things up in the middle.
Hanna Bowden comes off the bench with even more strength, relentless rebounding and is a good shot-blocker.
“Amy is really solid,” Walters said. “She does so many things for us that just don’t get in the stat sheet that are so valuable. You can’t hardly take her off the floor.”
The Mavericks average 20.5 turnovers a game, but lost it only six times last Friday against Western New Mexico. They’ve stressed ball security all week.
“All you can do is put the kids in the position they’re going to be in on Friday night and hopefully make it a little bit tougher, add another defender on the court,” said Walters, whose two point guards, Effo Baker and Dallas Rohrbaugh, have never faced Fort Lewis.
“You focus on being crisp on cuts, pass fakes, going to meet the basketball, not picking it up in the places they want us to pick it up; being a little headier.”