Hot-shooting Mavs cruise to win

Colorado Mesa University’s men’s basketball team knew it had to play better on the road this season to compete for the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference title.

The Mavericks did that Friday night in a 78-61 win at CSU-Pueblo, shooting 58 percent from the field.

“It was nice to see our guys finally put two halves together, and on the road,” CMU associate head coach Andy Shantz said. “That’s been our Achilles heel all year, we come out real slow and do a good job in the second half.”

With five players scoring in double figures, the Mavericks (10-3, 7-2 RMAC) led by as many as 22 points early in the second half by executing the offense against whatever defense the ThunderWolves threw at them.

“Pueblo does a good job mixing defenses to keep you off balance. They’ll go to a 2-2-1 press, then go to a 1-3-1 and then extend it and go 1-2-2. They do a little bit of everything to get you confused,” Shantz said.

“It’s kind of a compliment to our guys how well they attacked anything they played.

“They’ll mix it up more than most people. We’ve seen them play zone for long stretches or man for long stretches. Whatever they went to, we executed against anything they went to tonight.”

The ThunderWolves (4-10, 3-5) led only once, 10-9, less than five minutes into the game.

Colton Burgon scored 22 points and had a half-dozen rebounds for the Mavericks, Paul Walter scored 13 points and Jeff Hart 12. Landon Vermeer and Clay Kame had 11 points each off the bench. Mesa’s bench outscored CSU-Pueblo’s bench 25-16.

A 10-2 run over the final four minutes of the second half pushed CMU’s lead from 27-20 to 37-22 at halftime, and less than five minutes into the second half it was all but over.

Mesa used an 8-0 spurt to push the lead to 45-24 on a layup by Walter with 16:16 to play, and after CSU-Pueblo scored, Vermeer hit a 3-pointer for the biggest lead of the game, 48-26, with 15:23 to go.

CSU-Pueblo went on a scoring run midway through the half to cut the lead to 10, 58-48, on a 3-pointer by J.J. Mina, but Burgon went inside for a bucket and then took a pass from Kame for a dunk at the 5:49 mark for a 64-48 lead.

A testament to how well the Mavericks passed the ball is their 27 assists on 32 made baskets. Kame, whose minutes have gone up with Shawn King injured, continued his solid play, contributing six assists. Every Maverick who played more than one minute had at least one assist.

“We passed the ball so well. Our guys were really unselfish and were looking to make the extra pass,” Shantz said.

Mike Melillo had 11 rebounds to go with his six points and four assists.

“We were at the basket all night. We didn’t shoot the 3 very well (4 for 18), but you take that away and we were at the basket all night long,” Shantz said. “It’s tough to get there sometimes, but it’s good when you can get there.”

Mesa shot 62.5 percent from the field in the second half, and for the game they outscored the T-Wolves 40-20 in the paint.

The Mavericks’ defense held the ThunderWolves to 31 percent shooting and did not allow a fast-break point.

With a veteran team, the Mavericks were able to read CSU-Pueblo’s various defenses and break them down for easy baskets.

“That’s huge,” Shantz said. “You get some maturation throughout the year. We were a little skittish on the road early, and it’s been awhile since we’ve been on the road.

“Hopefully we cured some of those things that were hurting us before.”

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