Setting the tone
Defense lifts Mesa men to runaway win
The defense gave up an early 3-pointer Friday night, but after that, the Colorado Mesa University men’s basketball team was in lock-down mode.
“We want to execute what we do. It doesn’t matter who we play and what they do,” CMU coach Jim Heaps said after the Mavericks’ 84-51 win over Northern New Mexico. “When we’re on the offensive end, execute, and when we’re on the defensive end, work hard.
“I thought we really defended well. We wouldn’t let them get head and shoulders past, we didn’t give up penetration off the dribble.”
The Mavericks allowed Northern New Mexico to shoot just 27.8 percent from the field and only nine second-chance points in the final game of the first night of the Clarion Inn Thanksgiving Classic at Brownson Arena.
“We come out and want to set the tone on defense,” senior post Colton Burgon said. “We know if we play defense and rebound we’ll have a shot to win the game at the end. We played defense the whole 40 minutes and it showed.”
The opening 3 by the Eagles was the only time they led. Mesa scored the next nine points and steadily built the lead throughout the first half.
Mesa, as always, went to the bench early to keep fresh legs on the floor, and Clay Kame showed why the Mavs sub early and often.
He scored six straight points to push a 14-5 lead to 20-5 in a two-minute span.
He went the length of the floor for a layup, then, after Landon Vermeer came up with a steal, Kame made a nice basket cut and took the pass from Vermeer for a layup. He was fouled with 12 minutes to play in the first half and missed the free throw.
However, he knew it was going to be short, so he followed the shot for a putback and a 20-5 lead.
“Both times I stepped to the line tonight I was dead tired and I knew that one was coming off short, so I just attacked,” said Kame, who is trying to shake a nasty cough.
“If I make a mistake I’m going to try to be the first one to make up for it the next possession. I was able to do that a couple times tonight.”
Kame finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists in 20 minutes.
“Andy (Shantz, Heaps’ associate head coach) says that kid has one speed, “Heaps said. “It’s not first, second or third gear, it’s fourth gear and we’re going.
“That’s good, but sometimes in the past it’s gotten him in trouble. We’re trying to get him settled down to running what we need him to. He’s getting better and better and better.”
Burgon had 15 points in 19 minutes for the Mavericks (2-1), who have a rematch with Dixie State College at 7 tonight. Dixie beat the Mavericks 77-65 in St. George, Utah, two weeks ago.
“When we played them at their place we gave them a bunch of transition points and points in the paint,” Heaps said of the Red Storm, who lost to Fort Lewis in overtime Friday. “We’ve got to guard better inside and do a lot better job on transition defense.
“It’s gonna be a great game, a close game, because the teams match up so well.”
Northern New Mexico challenged Burgon inside, but he picked his spots, passing the ball back out when the defense collapsed around him, and ran the floor when the Mavericks had a chance to score in transition.
“If I don’t get as many touches in some games we have a lot of players who can shoot well,” Burgon said. “I don’t need to touch the ball as much as I have in the past.”
Once the Mavericks built the lead to 39 points midway through the second half, the starters were done for the night.
Jeff Hart, who has had a sore knee, and Mike Melillo, who missed some practice time with the flu, got some valuable rest. Hart had nine points and Melillo six.
By having quality depth and athletes who can and will run the floor, the Mavericks are able to push the tempo more than in the past.
“That second group has the scoring we want and has defensive players, it has some leadership,” Heaps said. “It’s a good group and that’s key for us to keep our minutes down and our effort up. I think we can push the pace a little better.”
Fort Lewis 89, Dixie State 82, OT: Nick Tomsick hit a challenged 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime, then set up Mike Matthews for the first 3 of the second half to lead the Skyhawks.
Tomsick finished with 27 points, including going 7 of 13 from the 3-point line — the Skyhawks hit 15 of 37 behind the arc.
Fort Lewis (2-0) outscored Dixie (3-1) 16-9 in overtime after taking a 41-37 halftime lead.
Dixie used its size to reclaim the lead in the second half, leading by six with only 1:37 to play, 71-65, but Tomsick hit a 3 with 1:01 to play and Jared Smith hit a jumper with 25 seconds remaining to cut it to one, 71-70.
After McKay Massey hit a pair of free throws with nine seconds left, Tomsick got the ball in the corner, and despite close defense, buried the 3 at the horn.