CMU muscles inside to rally past Mustangs

The Colorado Mesa men’s basketball team had another sluggish start Friday night, but it found a way to win on the road.

The Mavericks rallied in the second half to defeat Western New Mexico 58-53 in Silver City, N.M.

“We kept battling,” CMU coach Andy Shantz said. “We were tired and fatigued early. We were not making shots and got away from the post. The second half, we adjusted and started attacking in the post.”

Landon Vermeer led the Mavericks (4-3, 2-1 RMAC) with 12 points. Jon Orr hit two crucial 3-pointers and finished with 11 points, all in the second half. He also led Mesa with eight rebounds. Joe Kiely and Carlos Perez each had 10 points.

Marcos Castillos led the Mustangs (0-6, 0-3 RMAC) with 16 points. Terrez Scott had 14 points and six assists. Mesa limited Western New Mexico center Brelan Berry to eight points.

Mesa shot 36 percent from the floor, but outrebounded the Mustangs 37-27 and took care of the ball with only 10 turnovers. The Mavericks outscored Western New Mexico 30-20 in the paint.

The teams exchanged leads three times in the first half and neither could gain any separation. The Mustangs closed the first half with a 9-2 run for a
27-22 halftime lead, hitting three 3-pointers on consecutive possessions.

It was the sixth time in seven games Mesa trailed at the half. The Mavs are 3-3 when trailing at halftime.

“Hopefully you learn a lesson without losing a game,” Shantz said. “You can’t have excuses. You’ve got to find a way to win. You can’t expect to dig your way out of a hole all the time.”

The Mavericks got off to a good start in the second half, going on a 7-2 run to tie the game 29-29. Orr scored the first five points of the second half.

Western New Mexico, though, regained the lead and held it until Orr hit back-to-back 3-pointers for a 43-39 lead with 9:20 left in the game.

“That gave us life,” Shantz said. “We were slugging through it, then all of a sudden you could see a pep in our step. You often see the defense sparking the offense, but tonight the offense sparked our defense.”

After a Western New Mexico timeout, Kiely hit a pair of free throws for a six-point lead, the Mustangs’ largest of the game.

Western New Mexico converted an alley-oop to cut Mesa’s lead to two points, 51-49, with 1:45 left.

The Mavericks continued to attack the basket, drawing fouls, and Ryan Stephan hit a pair of free throws on consecutive possessions for a 55-51 lead.

They hit seven of nine free throws down the stretch to seal the victory. Mesa shot 24 free throws, making 79.2 percent.

Western New Mexico shot 42.9 percent from the floor, but only 39.3 percent in the second half. The Mustangs rarely got to the free-throw line, finishing with six attempts.


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