Big men propel Mavs to victory
Colorado Mesa University’s men’s basketball team appeared to be in trouble.
The Mavericks’ three post players each picked up their fourth foul in a 41⁄2-minute span Friday night in a tight game against RMAC rival Fort Lewis.
CMU stayed with the game plan and pulled away, defeating the Skyhawks 69-53 at Brownson Arena.
Michael Bear led Colorado Mesa with 18 points and Mike Melillo had 10. Jeff Hart grabbed 12 rebounds and Kevin Screen dished out seven assists.
“That’s a nice thing about having three post players,” CMU coach Jim Heaps said. “We feel like we can spread it around a little bit and not drop off much. The kids did a good job of staying in the game with foul trouble and still trying to guard.”
The Mavericks (6-3, 4-1 RMAC) were clinging to a single-digit lead when Bear, Chandler Burgon and Colton Burgon were suddenly in foul trouble.
Chandler Burgon picked up his third and fourth fouls with 11:26 left. Bear was whistled for his fourth with 8:02 left and Colton Burgon received his fourth with 6:49 left.
At that point, Mesa led 51-44.
“Me, Colton and Chandler had four fouls going into the last (seven) minutes,” Bear said. “The tendency is to back off and play soft, but you can give up games doing that. We knew we had to keep coming at them.”
That’s when Mesa went on a 13-3 run to lead 62-47, its biggest lead to that point.
“Our go-to guys are our big guys,” Screen said. “They worked hard in the offseason to be that. We attack into them. They can get it back out or they have mismatches. That’s how our team runs right now.”
The Mavericks continued to play solid defense and got baskets from a variety of players. Colton Burgon, Shawn King and Screen all scored, but it was back-to-back 3-pointers from Melillo that broke the game open.
“Melillo is an outstanding shooter and has been for us,” Heaps said. “We’ll talk a lot about kids from other teams that are real good shooters, but haven’t shot the ball well. It all evens out. We have a lot of confidence in him as a shooter and I think he has a lot of confidence in himself. It was big, especially those 3-pointers at that stretch.”
Screen added a couple of free throws and Blake Francom a layup to extend the lead to 18 in the final minute.
The Skyhawks (4-4, 2-2 RMAC) came out strong, making seven of their first 15 shots for a 16-9 lead in the first 10 minutes of the game.
From there, Mesa’s defense suffocated the Skyhawks. Fort Lewis shot 28.6 percent from the field in the first half and 31.8 percent for the game.
That allowed the Mavs to go on a 14-2 run late in the first half to take its first lead of the game, 21-16. The Mavs led 25-19 at halftime.
Mesa continued to pound the ball inside, going to the foul line on five consecutive possessions. They made 19 of 25 free throws (76 percent) for the game.
“We are a good free-throw shooting team,” Heaps said. “It’s such a big part of what we do. We want to get fouled, we want to get to the line. We’ve got good shooters that can shoot it. It’s important that we step up and make them.
“We need to do a better job on the boards. They had 17 offensive boards to our 10. That’s unacceptable. We did take care of the ball better, but a lot of that had to do with their zone. Still, those were the two things we were worried about. I was pleased we didn’t have many turnovers.”