Mesa State men fall in upset loss to Western State at Brownson Arena

You can toss out any one of a number of clich&233;s when it comes to Mesa State vs. Western State in basketball.

Saturday night, the only thing that mattered was that the Mountaineers (4-12, 3-8 RMAC) outplayed the Mavericks (11-4, 7-4) in a 68-55 upset at Brownson Arena.

“With the way they guard, they were just really, really well-coached tonight,” Mesa State coach Jim Heaps said. “He outcoached us up one side and down the other and their kids outplayed us. Our kids recognize that, I recognize that. They whipped us every way you can be whipped.”

It wasn’t a case of Western going on a big run late in the game to rally — just the opposite. The Mountaineers never trailed. For 40 minutes, Western State took it to the Mavericks on both ends of the floor.

“I think we had a pretty good game plan as to how to stop them,” Western State coach Mike Moskowitz said. “Everybody knows they want to go to their bigs. We tried to take that away from them and make their perimeter kids beat us. Fortunately for us, they struggled a little bit.”

Western State collapsed on defense every time the Mavs threw the ball inside. With Mesa’s big men constantly surrounded by two or three players, the Mountaineers dared the Mavs to beat them from the perimeter.

And they couldn’t.

“Every time I’ve lost to Western State since Mike’s been there, he does a great job of, ‘Hey, you’re going to beat us from the perimeter. You’re not going to beat us inside,’ ‘’ Heaps said. “You talk to the kids and talk and talk, you’ve got to be patient. That’s the big word I had on the board. You have to be patient with your offense and keep attacking. You cannot settle for jump shots because they’re open.

“They’ll give it to you. Shoot it, shoot that all you want.”

Mesa’s impatience on offense led to jump shots early in the possession that bounced off the rim, or rolled around and came off. Mesa shot only 29 percent from the field in the first half and 34.6 percent for the game.

The Mavericks, who shoot 31 percent from the 3-point line, didn’t come close to that, making only five of 19.

“I think they just played a great game,” Heaps said. “They had a great game plan going in, they stepped up and hit shots they haven’t been hitting and guys who haven’t been hitting shots were hitting them.

“They were playing free and easy and shooting the ball. Again, if they’re going to hit shots like that … they turned it over four times total and go 47.6 from the 3 at the same time we’re going 5 for 19.”

On the other side of things, Western State, a team that shoots 40 percent from the field and 27 percent from long range, seemingly couldn’t miss. The Mountaineers hit nearly half of the shots they took, 24 of 49 for 49 percent, and were almost as accurate from the 3-point line, hitting 10 of 21 (47.6 percent).

Alex Hart, who averages 10.5 points a game, scored 17 for Western, which has won three of its past five games, all in conference, and Casey Jackson came off the bench to score 11. Every player who got in the game scored for the Mountaineers — only seven of the Mavs’ 11 players got in the book.

Kalonji Paschal was the only Maverick with any kind of consistent success, mixing perimeter shooting (4 of 7 from the 3-point line) with drives to the basket for 24 points.

Lance Fite, one of the Mavs’ big men who was harassed all night, ended up with 12 points, but Colton Burgon, Mesa’s leading scorer (13 per game) had only three points. John Gabriel, who hasn’t played much all season, got 20 minutes in place of Michael Bear, still out with a sprained ankle, and scored six points. He also led the Mavs with eight rebounds.

“We know (Fite) can shoot it,” Moskowitz said. “As soon as he took a couple of bounces, we tried to make sure to have one or two guys there to kind of deter him from getting to the basket.”

Down eight at halftime, the Mavs found themselves trailing 42-28 only five minutes into the second half when Hart hit a 3-pointer. Mesa made a little run, with Fite converting a three-point play, Paschal picking his way through traffic for a layup and Nate Nelson controlling a loose ball before three players nearly crashed into the scorer’s table. That led to a layup by Burgon, his only field goal of the game, and Mesa trailed 44-36 with 9:15 to play.

Western, though, answered every challenge, patiently working the clock and finding open players, which is normally Mesa State’s style.

“They didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, so that worked in our favor,” Moskowitz said. “But we haven’t been able to finish off a game like that all year.

“Mesa’s one of the best teams in the league. It feels good to come in here and get a win.”


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