Mavs complete sweep of RMAC East opponents
It was a historic night at Brownson Arena.
Two former Mesa State College student-athletes and two former coaches received their Hall of Honor plaques Saturday and the Mesa men’s basketball team made school history.
The 21-ranked Mavericks completed a sweep of the RMAC East Division teams for the first time in school history in front of 1,088, including former men’s basketball coach Doug Schakel, with an 81-71 victory over the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.
It was the first time any RMAC West Division team defeated all seven East Division teams in one season, Mesa State coach Jim Heaps said.
“This is a mature group and they have certain goals,” Heaps said. “At no point did they talk about sweeping the East as one of their goals.
“They talk about winning the West Division championship, the conference championship and the tournament championship. Winning seven games doesn’t matter. What matters is Friday night against Highlands then the next game.”
The Mavericks (13-1, 7-0 RMAC), though, weren’t pleased with the victory.
“We didn’t come out and play very well, but we got the job done,” Mesa State senior Jase Herl said. “We don’t want to play like that again, that’s for sure.
“We still have a lot to work on. We don’t want to be perfect now; we want to be perfect in March.”
Herl was one of four players to score in double figures for Mesa with 10 points. Michael Dominguez led the Mavericks with 16 points. Michael Bear had 15 and Lance Fite 12.
“I didn’t feel like we played as well as we’ve been playing,” Heaps said. “I told the kids sometimes you’ve got to win games when you’re not playing well and when the other team is. I thought UCCS played really well.”
“Sometimes it’s winning ugly and finding a way to get a victory. Tonight was one of those.”
Mesa shot 59 percent from the floor and had 21 assists to 14 turnovers, but Mesa shot just 63.3 percent from the free-throw line.
“We have nothing but great free throw shooters, but we didn’t shoot free throws well tonight,” Heaps said. “I think that’s mental focus. You’re tough enough to study and been making free throws since fifth grade. Why all of a sudden now?”
Mesa made up for the poor free throw shooting with excellent field goal shooting in the first half (66.7 percent) as it built a double-digit lead by halftime, 43-32.
The Mountain Lions (5-10, 3-4 RMAC) came out from the locker room like a wounded animal ready to fight.
UCCS went on a 14-2 run to start the second half and take a 46-45 lead.
“For the first time this season, we come out the second half and played flat,” Heaps said. “They hit some threes and out-worked us the first three minutes. They had more energy than we did.”
Mesa, with seven seniors, didn’t panic.
Instead, the Mavericks answered with an 11-0 run to push the lead back to 10 by attacking the basket.
UCCS, though, refused to quit, and staying within striking distance.
The Mountain Lions cut the gap to six with 2:40 left, but Mesa went back to attacking the basket and it paid off.
Bear took the ball to the basket, scored and was fouled. Although he missed the free throw, Mesa was back on track.
The next possession, Dominguez found an open backdoor to the basket and threw down a slam-dunk to put the exclamation point on the victory.
Mesa hit 5 of 6 foul shots in the final minute to seal the win.