Breaking point

Mavs crack Chadron's spirit in second half, cruise to win

Colorado Mesa’s Jeff Hart has his layup blocked by Chadron State’s Chris Taylor on Saturday in the Mavs’ 68-37 victory. Hart had 21 points in the win.



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Colorado Mesa’s Jeff Hart has his layup blocked by Chadron State’s Chris Taylor on Saturday in the Mavs’ 68-37 victory. Hart had 21 points in the win.

Five games over the next three weekends will determine how the RMAC men’s basketball race shakes out.

Saturday night, by grinding away until they broke Chadron State down in the second half for a 68-37 victory, the Colorado Mesa men found themselves in second place in the conference standings, .015 percentage points ahead of Adams State and Fort Lewis.

“It just doesn’t matter,” CMU coach Jim Heaps said of the standings at this point. “You know how it is at this time of year. It’s one at a time, get out and get to the next one. It’ll drive you crazy if you start looking at the standings now.”

The Grizzlies lost on the road this past weekend at New Mexico Highlands and Western New Mexico, with Fort Lewis splitting on the same trip. It’s the same trip the Mavericks (16-5, 13-4 RMAC) take this weekend.

“Anybody can lose to anybody. It’s Metro and the rest of us,” Heaps said.

“We’ve won several games at the end that we could have easily lost. Adams has, Fort Lewis has. There’s a ton of teams that have. It could just be a logjam. It’s so balanced from the second place on down.”

Saturday, the Mavs’ minds were on Chadron State, a team that has won only twice this season, both against Regis. The Rangers knocked off Colorado School of Mines on Saturday, further proof of how crazy things are going to get the next three weeks.

With about 10 minutes to go in the game, the Eagles cracked.

It was a 10-point game, 43-33, with 12:50 to play.

The next time Chadron State (2-19, 2-15) scored, the Mavericks were up 54-35 with 7:43 to play. The Eagles’ next point didn’t come until 3:05 remained, one free throw after the Mavericks had rattled off 10 straight points to go up by 29.

Jeff Hart scored six straight points as part of his 21-point night, all but four coming in the second half.

Hart’s 17 second-half points were five more than the Eagles had over the final 20 minutes.

“I outscored them in the second half?” Hart said. “We got some steals and that led to me getting some easy buckets. When you see the ball go through the hoop a couple of times, you get your confidence back up and you feel better.”

At one point during Chadron’s nightmare of a second half (4 of 22 from the field), Eagles coach Brent Bargen, clearly exasperated, told his team to “run whatever you want,” telling the players on the bench the Eagles were doing whatever they wanted anyway.

“All the players on the court were kind of saying stuff under their breath,” Hart said. “They were fragmenting before us in the second half; you could see it.

“They kind of gave up on us, which is what we want. We want to be the team that pushes on to the very end and have other teams crack and break.”

The Eagles had only three assists on their 11 made baskets.

“I think they wore out,” Heaps said. “They got tired, and I thought our kids did a nice job of just getting the shots we wanted. We scored a lot there at the end after they got tired. We started running the floor. If we can get stops and rebound, we can do that.”

As out of sync as the Eagles were, the Mavericks got back to executing on both ends of the floor. They turned the ball over only seven times and shot nearly 70 percent from the field in the second half (16 of 23).

Their defense gave Chadron State only three second chances and took them out of any kind of offensive rhythm by contesting shots and controlling the boards. That allowed them to get out in transition and score easy basket after easy basket.

Colton Burgon finished with 17 points, while Mike Melillo went 7 of 10 from the field and finished with 14 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal for the Mavs.

Every basket Mesa made in the second half was a layup or a jumper inside 15 feet. They only made two shots outside that range the entire game, electing to take high-percentage shots.

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