Backcourt boon

Lopez, Rock solidify Mavs' starting lineup

Christen Lopez, left, and Taylor Rock have given the Colorado Mesa women’s basketball team solid contributions as the starting point guard and shooting guard, respectively.

Two spots in the starting lineup were cemented, no matter who was coaching the Colorado Mesa University women’s basketball team this season, with senior forwards Kelsey Sigl and Katrina Selsor.

A third was pretty much a no-brainer when guard Sharaya Selsor returned to school.

Those three have done what first-year coach Taylor Wagner expected, leading the Mavericks to a 10-0 record and a No. 13 national ranking.

The other two spots in the starting lineup, point guard and shooting guard, were the concern. Two junior college transfers, though, have made a seemingly seamless transition.

“I wasn’t sure where my place was, but I slowly figured it out,” point guard Christen Lopez said.

“I was a little nervous. It’s always a new team, and you have to find your role,” echoed shooting guard Taylor Rock.

Lopez, a 5-foot-4 junior from Kearns, Utah, transferred from Miles (Mont.) Community College, where she was a second-team all-conference player last season.

Lopez isn’t big, but she’s quick, can pick her way through traffic, hit the outside jumper, and she loves the options she has to work with in the offense. She averages three assists per game and had a season-high nine against New Mexico Highlands.

“I played with them on the recruiting trip, and the posts were finishing all the passes,” she said. “Every pass that was made to them, they were finishing, and I was excited to get into that.

“The fact that we have these posts that finish, are tall and athletic and they can run ... it’s great. I love it. You have so many options with posts and shooters. There are so many people who can do it all.”

With Sigl averaging 17.1 points per game, Katrina Selsor 14.6 and Sharaya Selsor 12.3, defenses have their hands full against a team that shoots 45.6 percent from the field.

That’s opened things up for Lopez, who scored a season-high 16 points against Fort Lewis and seven against Adams State as 2012 ended.

“They were more worried about them, and I came in and just started shooting, and then they had to worry about me,” Lopez said of the Skyhawks. “When they did, Kelsey and (the Selsors) got open. That’s what I like; we all click so well.”

Rock came in from Otero Junior College as a 3-point specialist, but her shot hasn’t fallen consistently — yet.

The 5-10 junior from Smithfield, Utah, played for Wagner at Otero the past two years, which helped the all-region guard make the transition.

“The shot will come,” the left-hander said with a grin. “I’ve gotta get into a rhythm. (Wagner) told me (Thursday) I don’t have to make shots to help the team. That’s always good. I have to play defense and rebound. There’s other ways to contribute because you have Kelsey, Katrina and Sharaya.

“If there’s the five of us out there, they can’t shut down the whole team. Everybody’s going to have their game.”

All but seven of Rock’s field goal attempts this season have come from behind the 3-point line. She hit three of seven and scored nine points against Black Hills State, her high-point game of the season.

Rock makes her impact on defense, with six blocked shots in nine games (she missed one game with a sprained ankle), and she’s averaging about three rebounds per game from the wing.

The Mavericks (10-0, 6-0 RMAC) open a tough five-week stretch at 5:30 tonight against Colorado Christian (6-3, 3-2) at Brownson Arena.

Saturday, Colorado School of Mines (7-4, 4-1), coached by former Maverick guard Brittany (Rowley) Simpson (2002–06) is at Brownson.

Eight of the Mavs’ next nine games are against teams in the top half of the conference, none of which have more than two conference losses.

Colorado Mesa’s 10-game winning streak is the longest season-opening streak since the Mavericks won 11 straight in 1999, and the No. 13 ranking is the highest since Mesa was 
No. 7 in March of 2002.

“We have such high expectations for ourselves that we want to keep pushing and keep getting better,” Rock said. “The winning streak and ranking is just an added bonus. That’s just recognition for how hard we’ve been working.”

If anything, being ranked 13th has made the Mavs more determined to reach their lofty goals.

“You can’t just sit there and think, ‘Oh, we’re 13th in the nation, we don’t have to do anything else,’ ” Lopez said.

“No, you have to keep working. We don’t want to just be 13th. We want to move up. We can’t settle for 13th. We’ve got to keep working at it.”


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