Mesa women hope to end recent road futility vs. Ft. Lewis
Final exams at Colorado Mesa University ended Thursday. Everywhere, students were packing up and hitting the road for the long semester break.
The CMU women’s basketball players were practicing as their classmates headed home. They, too, will pack up this weekend, but only for a two-day getaway.
“One thing I’m looking forward to is we’re on the road,” CMU coach Taylor Wagner said. “If you’re around campus and it’s dead, and it’s your campus, you kind of feel like you’d like to be the one packing your car and leaving.
“I think it’ll be good to get on the road and focus on basketball this weekend and get a nice little break afterwards.”
After playing at Fort Lewis (2-5, 1-2 RMAC) on Sunday night and at Adams State (3-4, 0-3) on Monday night, the Mavericks (8-0, 4-0) are scheduled to practice Tuesday morning before taking nine days off. They return to practice Dec. 27.
“I’m used to the kids having three-and-a-half to four weeks off,” said Wagner, who was coaching at Otero Junior College a year ago. “Nine days, that’s not very much, but at this point we just want to play. I think it’s important to just keep playing with the momentum we do have, keep that going.”
Mesa has a 45-33 overall edge in the series against Fort Lewis, but the Skyhawks have been one of the top teams in the nation the past few years. Mesa has won only three times in the past 16 meetings and hasn’t won in Durango since the 2002–03 season.
Two years ago, when the current seniors were sophomores, Mesa was one of only three teams to beat Fort Lewis, a 57-51 win at Brownson Arena.
Both teams have first-year coaches, but the Skyhawks lost four of their top five scorers and five seniors, who combined for 45 points a game, so they’re adjusting to new roles and new coach Jason Flores.
Fort Lewis lost an uncharacteristic five straight games before winning its first home game of the season last week against Adams State.
Mesa is 42-32 all-time against the Grizzlies and has won two of the past three games in Alamosa, losing an RMAC playoff game there in 2011.
“I don’t know how long it’s been since CMU has won (in Durango), but it’s a tough place to play, and again, those (Fort Lewis) upperclassmen, they know how to win,” Wagner said. “They’ve been there. They might not have been the go-to girl, but they know what it takes to have a great team.”
The Skyhawks have been the targeted team for several years, and now Mesa, ranked 19th, has that target.
“For me it’s all new, so I can’t go back and talk about past years,” Wagner said. “We’re focusing on this year’s team and what we do well and what we don’t do well.”
After an ugly win over Western New Mexico last Friday, the Mavericks regrouped — and refocused — in a rout of New Mexico Highlands on Saturday.
“I saw us that first weekend playing Simon Fraser, who’s ninth now, and Billings, who’s receiving votes, that’s how we were,” Wagner said. “Our offense wasn’t clicking as much because it was still kind of new, but our defense was really good.
“That’s what I saw Saturday. We were helping each other, we were active, we were talking. Everything we’ve talked about all year long, they did it.”
After giving the players Monday off to prepare for finals, the Mavs sat down to watch film Tuesday after a light “no brain work” practice.
“They definitely did not want to watch Friday’s film,” Wagner said, smiling. “We did not watch it at all. I think they understood they can’t just show up, and Saturday night was a testament to that. They came out and played hard, and when they do that, great things happen. We’re going to let that one (film review) slide for a little while.”