Mavs hoops teams focused on improvement

Jim Heaps laughed about practicing with industrial fans blowing on the court and a hydraulic lift circling Brownson Arena as workers changed out advertising signs.

“That’s always been our approach. If you can’t concentrate with this stuff going on, you can’t concentrate with fans and cheerleaders and everything else,” he said of the Colorado Mesa University men’s basketball team’s preparation Wednesday for Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference road games Friday and Saturday.

Colorado Mesa plays at Colorado State-Pueblo on Friday night and at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs on Saturday. The women’s games tip off at 5:30 each night with the men to follow at 7:30 p.m.

“It’s a little bit different,” said women’s senior forward Kelsey Sigl of practicing with the commotion.

The teams at first thought about using the Hamilton Recreation Center court for practice after a water pipe broke Tuesday night and water reached the arena floor.

The cheerleaders were practicing in the rec center, so the teams opted for fans and changing signs.

Sigl figured the additional noise can only help the eighth-ranked women’s team’s focus heading into the toughest stretch of the season. The Mavericks 
(12-0, 8-0 RMAC) play the team right behind them in the standings — the ThunderWolves are 9-2, 6-1 and are receiving votes in the national rankings. CU-Colorado Springs (8-3, 5-2) is fourth in the RMAC.

“It means our focus needs to be (better) for each of us this weekend,” Sigl said. “We need to execute more. Going on the road, we need to be 10 to 15 points better. It’s a huge weekend for us. We know we’re going to get everyone’s A game whoever we play.”

The Mavericks haven’t really been tested in their first dozen games, and they’ve been guilty of playing to the scoreboard at times, building big leads, then allowing teams to get back in the game before putting it away.

“We get a little lax,” Sigl said. “Our biggest problem is ourselves. I’m excited to move past that and stop being our own worst enemy and playing to our highest potential.”

The men’s team, too, has won down the stretch lately, but in a different fashion.

Colorado Mesa (9-3, 6-2) got off to slow starts last weekend, then caught fire in the second half to beat Colorado Christian and Colorado School of Mines. The biggest reason, Heaps said, is the Mavericks’ depth.

Despite losing junior Shawn King for a couple of weeks to a prestress fracture in his pelvis, the Mavericks got solid minutes from Clay Kame and Landon Vermeer off the bench.

“We’ve been thrilled with our bench all year,” Heaps said. “They’ve done a nice job coming in and playing with energy and running good stuff. We can go nine, 10, 11 deep if we need to, and that makes a big difference. Just about every one of our wins this year has been close until the 10-, six-minute mark of the second half, and we’ve been able to spurt on people. It’s because of our depth; we’ve got more left.”

The Mavericks are in fourth place in the conference, with CSU-Pueblo (4-9, 3-4) seventh and CU-Colorado Springs (1-10, 1-6) 13th. The ThunderWolves have lost three games in overtime, including against Adams State and Fort Lewis, both nationally ranked.

The Mountain Lions snapped a nine-game losing streak with a four-point win over Western New Mexico just before the holiday break, then lost to the ThunderWolves 85-83 last weekend.

“They’re playing everybody close. I think CSU-Pueblo, when they played Adams and Fort Lewis, both hit buzzer-beaters on back-to-back nights,” Heaps said. “It’s how it goes sometimes. Sometimes the basketball gods smile on you. They’re both definitely good enough.”

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