Mavs top Western in defensive struggle

GUNNISON — Maybe it was the rivalry. Maybe it was the cold. Altitude, perhaps?

“I’m not gonna lie, I was kinda dying with my wind up here,” center Kurt Bangle said Tuesday night after the Mavericks slugged out their third straight RMAC West Division victory, 61-39 over Western State.

As to why neither team could get that round ball through the iron hoop in the first half at Paul Wright Gymnasium, there were several theories.

The 7,723-foot altitude definitely takes its toll early in the game, but Mesa State coach Jim Heaps knows why neither team even got close to shooting 30 percent in the first half. The
Mavs shot 28 percent from the field and Western State 22 percent, with Mesa State leading 22-12 at the break.

“Sometimes that happens and it’s just bad offense,” Heaps said. “Both teams come out cold and can’t get going. I really thought, now our offense wasn’t very good, but the two defenses had a lot to do with it. Western State played outstanding defense, as they always do, and I thought our kids played great defense.

“We had to make tough shots just to get to 22. I thought it was a great defensive battle.”

And that’s just what Heaps wanted.

Mesa State (8-9, 5-4 RMAC) attacked inside and shots bounced off the rim. Western State, a good perimeter shooting team, saw shot after shot lip around and out.

Seven minutes into the game, Ryan Mathews led Western 5-0.

“Never in my life,” redshirt freshman guard Brian Kenshalo said of the low-scoring first half. “I thought it was easily going to be a high scoring game, but it started out the first six minutes 3-0 and I’m thinking, ‘all right, OK, this is a defensive game.’ That’s what we like. ”

Something finally broke things open in the second half, but it was the Mountaineers who finally got on a run, outscoring the Mavs 10-4 in the first five minutes of the second half to cut the lead to 26-22.

Then it was Mesa State’s turn, going on a 25-5 outburst and getting contributions from everybody in the process. The Mavs shot 65 percent from the field in the second half.

Mathews, who led the Mavs with 21 points, scored 10 points in that flurry and Kenshalo hit a 3 from the wing on a kickout pass from Kurt Bangle. That wasn’t all the redshirt freshman did, though.

He scored nine points in that run, giving the Mavs a lift and keeping the Mountaineers from being able to overload on Mathews.

“I got confident. It was all thanks to the big man,” Kenshalo said of the pass out from Bangle to get him going. “I’ve ben waiting 13 games or however many we’ve played, and it finally took over. This is a huge win for us tonight.”


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