Anything is possible in RMAC basketball
So the University of Nebraska-Kearney comes to the Western Slope and shoots the new lights out at Brownson Arena. Chris Deans, a redshirt freshman making his fourth start, goes for a career-high 35 points in a 93-87 win over Mesa State.
The next night, the Lopers play at Paul Wright Gym in Gunnison and seemingly can’t hit a thing. The same freshman scores 10 points, making only three of nine shots in Western State’s 72-60 win.
What’s the deal?
Welcome to RMAC men’s basketball, where anything can — and usually does — happen.
The East-West tour wraps up this week, with Mesa State traveling to play the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs on Friday night. The Mountain Lions are coming off a hot shooting night in Alamosa in an 88-77 win over Adams State.
The Mountain Lions, much like Kearney, couldn’t miss, shooting 72 percent from the field in the first half, hitting 8 of 10 from the 3-point line to open the game.
With a dozen games on the schedule this week, the West Division has the upper hand with a 20-16 record over the East.
Western State has turned things around under second-year head coach Mike Moskowitz and is 5-1 in conference play.
The Mountaineers follow Mesa State to Colorado Springs in what should be both teams’ final trip to the cozy Lions’ Den, where there’s little room on the sidelines or end lines and only about 400 people can fit in the stands. A new arena should be completed in time for next basketball season.
Fort Lewis and New Mexico Highlands are 4-1 in the West and CSU-Pueblo 3-2. Mesa State is 3-3, with Western New Mexico picking up its first conference win of the season last weekend by beating Regis to improve to 4-1. Adams State is 0-5.
Metro State leads the East Division at 4-1, followed by Colorado Christian and UCCS at 3-2. Kearney is 3-3 after its Western Slope split, Regis is 2-3, Colorado School of Mines 1-4 and Chadron State 1-5.
Mesa State coach Jim Heaps has said all season the RMAC is more balanced this year than perhaps any previous year, and the teams are proving him right.
Despite being a .500 team in the conference, the Mavericks have played well in all but one game, a 76-67 loss at home to Colorado Christian.
Although Kearney shot 56 percent from the field and 58 percent from the 3-point line Friday night, the Mavericks weren’t far behind, shooting 52.6 percent from the field and 55 percent from the 3-point line.
Saturday night, the Mavericks came out with a smothering defense against Chadron State to set the tone of the game and came away with a key 77-69 victory.
As Kurt Bangle walked upstairs from the locker room after Friday’s game, he could only shake his head.
“I’ve never seen a team shoot like that,” he said. “Ever.”
Heaps has seen a little bit of everything in his career, but he, too, was impressed by Kearney’s shooting.
“I told the kids that it’s a 40-minute game, and if they hit those shots for 40 minutes, we’re probably not going to win,” Heaps said Friday night. “You shake their hands and show up the next night. That’s probably as good of offensive execution as I’ve seen.”