Mesa State men prep for Kearney
The Mesa State College men’s basketball team returns to RMAC play this weekend looking for a rare victory.
The 24th-ranked Mavericks (10-1, 4-0 RMAC) are looking for a tough win at Nebraska-Kearney (7-5, 2-2 RMAC). The game tips-off at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Kearney, Neb.
This isn’t a typical Kearney team this season, though.
Last year’s RMAC leading scorer, Drake Beranek, transferred to Division I Nebraska for his senior season.
“They’ve always had that one go-to guy that’s in the hunt for player of the year in the conference,” Mesa State coach Jim Heaps said. “This is a year they don’t. I think they are more like us. They have five or six good players. That’s not necessarily bad; we’ve won a lot of games with that style.
“(The Lopers) are better than last year and they beat us last year at our place. They are balanced this year. Their post players are doing well. They have kids, when they are on, can shoot the basketball. If they hit shots, they will be tough to beat. You’ve got to really defend and make them defend. If you can do that, you got a chance.”
Instead of relying on one player to carrying the scoring, the Lopers rely on their defense and post players.
Kearney is second to Mesa in the RMAC in defense and field goal percentage (42.7 percent) and first in the RMAC in blocked shots (5.5 per game).
“They are tall; they have big post players,” Heaps said. “You don’t get anything easy against them. Everything you get, you’ve got to earn. You have to hit shots over the top of their hands. That tends to pull your shooting percentage down.”
Before the Mavericks try to pull off a rare victory at Kearney, they must take care of an improving Chadron State program under fourth-year coach Brent Bargen at 8 p.m. on Friday in Chadron, Neb. The Eagles have increased their win total each year under Bargen and are five wins away from doing it again this season.
“(The Eagles) play hard, are athletic and they run their stuff really well,” Heaps said. “They won at Adams, which is a tough place to play. They beat Highlands at home and Highlands is as talented of a team as their is (in the RMAC). They’re much better than their record. They’ve lost a couple close games. They’ve got all the ingredients, they are just young.”
Chadron State, though, lost its top scorer from last year, Tim McLaurin, who transferred to Cal State-Dominguez Hills to be closer to home.
The Mesa State women’s team faces a couple of programs struggling this weekend as well, but coach Roger Walters is more concerned about seeing improvement on his team.
“We give away too many trips at both ends of floor due to lack of focus,” Walters said. “We’re not talented enough to not be incredibly disciplined at both ends.
“We can do better. I’m really disappointed where we are at. I’ve got to coach better. They’ve got to play better. It’s not a complete overhaul by any means, but we need to get better in some major areas.”
It starts with taking better care of the basketball. The Mavericks (2-7, 1-3 RMAC) had 25 turnovers in their last game, a loss last Saturday at Dixie State (Utah) College.
“Offensively, we can’t give trips away,” Walters said. “We have to execute as a unit every single possession, not 2 out of 4 or 2 out of 6. It has to be done every single possession.
“It’s the same thing on the defensive end. We’re not talented enough to have any lapses.”
Their first opportunity to make those corrections comes at 6 p.m. on Friday against Chadron State (1-10, 1-3 RMAC) in Chadron, Neb.
“If we play to our capability, we’ll be really competitive and have a shot (to defeat Chadron),” Walters said. “If we don’t and keep going down the road we’re going, we’re going to struggle.”
Mesa visits a Nebraska-Kearney team (2-8, 2-2 RMAC), that is off to one of its worst starts in program history.
“(Kearney) might not be as good as they were in the past, but what does that mean?” Walters asked. “Look where we’re at. Our concern is us getting better on a weekly basis and doing the right things on and off the floor.”