Mesa State men respond with win over Fort Lewis
You couldn’t really blame the Mesa State College men’s basketball players for having a chip on their shoulders Saturday night.
They blew their shot to host a first-round RMAC playoff game, but even more, they weren’t happy with how they played down the stretch in an overtime loss to Adams State.
“Last night was one of those ‘got kicked in the gut’ games,” Mesa State coach Jim Heaps said. “When it’s over you’re just kind of stunned. But I was pleased with the way we responded, came ready to play and execute and play as well as we did.”
On Senior Night, in front of a packed house of 1,237 fans, including a large contingent of former players wearing “Heaps Time” T-shirts, the Mavericks made sure to finish the home season right, claiming a 72-52 victory over rival Fort Lewis College.
“Last night left a sour taste in our mouth,” sophomore forward Jeff Hart said.
The Skyhawks’ leading scorer, DeAndre Lansdowne, was slowed by a sprained ankle, which he injured early Friday night at Western State. He played, but was noticeably hampered by the ankle, unable to jump like he usually can, and didn’t score in the game.
“I felt bad, Fort Lewis is short-handed, their two best scorers are hurt and sick (David Kanyinda, who didn’t play) and we caught them on a bad night,” Heaps said.
“But you’ve just got to play the people that go on the floor and I thought our kids really responded well.”
The Mavs will turn around and play the Skyhawks again at 7:30 on Tuesday in Fort Lewis in the first round of the RMAC Shootout.
The Mavericks (18-8, 14-8 RMAC) received the No. 6 seed, with Fort Lewis No. 3, after Adams State lost to Western State on Saturday in overtime and lost the tiebreaker with the Skyhawks for the higher seed.
The Mavericks took advantage of Lansdowne’s limited time — only 17 minutes — and held the Skyhawks to 34.5 percent shooting, only 19 percent from the 3-point line.
That defensive effort led to the Mavericks staying in control, despite giving up 14 offensive rebounds, most on long caroms from missed jumpers.
They still had 28 defensive rebounds and shot nearly 56 percent from the field.
The game got physical, as most are between the rivals, but the Mavericks actually like it when they get to bang around a little bit. Chandler Burgon played some tough post defense, scored five points, had a couple of assists, three rebounds and blocked two shots.
“That’s definitely how I like to play, when it’s a little rough in there,” the 6-foot-8 sophomore post said. “For once in a month and a half they didn’t call a lot of fouls, they let us play a little bit.”
The Mavericks picked themselves up after Friday’s loss and controlled the tempo of the game defensively. Early on, the Skyhawks’ Daniel Steffensen was able to penetrate and score at the basket, but the Mavericks clamped down in the second half.
“We talked at halftime about how Steffenson especially would curl and cut and was coming down the middle of the lane and shooting layups,” Heaps said. “We talked, ‘post player, step in there, block it, take a charge, something, just don’t let them shoot layups.’
“I thought (Burgon) had a big block on one and we got some charges and really defended well. that’s been this team’s M.O. all along, and we executed offensively.”
Colton Burgon had three points and Brian Skelton added one as Heaps cleared the bench with a couple of minutes left.
Michael Bear led the Mavericks with 16 points off the bench, Hart had 12 and point guard Kalonji Paschal had 11 points, three assists, three steals and no turnovers.
The Mavs were happiest about how they responded after the loss to Adams.
“We stayed focused,” Chandler Burgon said. “We could have fallen apart last night and fragmented, but we came together as a team and just said, ‘This win is bigger than last night’s loss. It’s big to go into the conference tournament with a win over the fifth-ranked team in the region.’ ”