Colorado Mesa men top Southern Virginia in tourney opener

Colorado Mesa men top Southern Virginia in tourney opener

Colorado Mesa University’s Shawn King, 13, drives to the basket past Southern Virginia’s Jonathan Jacobson during the Mavericks’ 79-54 victory in the Clarion Inn Thanksgiving Tip-Off at Brownson Arena.

Two years ago, the Mesa State College men’s basketball team made it through the regular season without a home loss.

The Mavericks came out this season intent on repeating that feat.

Now Colorado Mesa University, the Mavericks put the clamps down on Southern Virginia University and pulled away for a 79-54 victory in front of 934 on Friday night at Brownson Arena.

“The first home game you’re super excited,” Mesa senior Michael Bear said. “We were ready to play. We were excited to play at home.”

Bear led the way with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Shawn King, a transfer from Division I Illinois-Chicago, scored 13 off the bench and Jeff Hart had 12. Mike Melillo added eight points and nine rebounds.

“This is a great program, it’s family oriented, and the fan support is great,” King said. “I really didn’t know what to expect with it being Thanksgiving break and a lot of the students gone. The community really came out and supported us.

“Somebody said in the locker room before the game we don’t lose at home. I think it was Bear. That’s our motto for the season. I think we came out, especially in the second half, brought energy and played as a unit.”

The Mavericks (2-1) ratcheted up the defensive intensity in the second half, not allowing a field goal for 31⁄2 minutes and only one for nearly the first six minutes of the second half. The offense took advantage, pushing the lead to double figures.

“Defense is our strength,” junior center Chandler Burgon said. “That’s what it’s going to come down to in a game. Offense will work itself out. If we can go out, get stops consistently, that’s going to be our key this year.

“As a team, that’s what we try to pride ourselves on. Everyone works together as a team. When we do that, that’s when we’re successful.”

The Knights (3-5), which shot 42.9 percent from the field in the first half, was limited to 20.7 percent in the second half. They shot 32.8 for the game.

Colorado Mesa was more efficient on the offensive end in the second half as well, turning the ball over only five times compared to nine in the first half. The Mavs dominated the boards, grabbing 51 total.

“I thought we were better, we just turned it over a little too much in the first half and we gave up too many offensive rebounds in the first half,” Mesa coach Jim Heaps said.

“We talked about cleaning it up a little bit. I thought they played great in the first half and hit some shots. The ones that bothered me a bit was scoring on offensive rebounds. They shouldn’t be getting offensive rebounds against us. That’s just their effort.

“We wanted to play every possession, play 20 minutes of great possessions and see what happens. The kids bought into that. The kids attacked the zone well. We got contributions from a lot of guys. I saw a lot of improvement.”

The Mavericks didn’t settle for jump shots, either.

Mesa drew 20 fouls and shot 28 free throws, making 22 (78.6 percent).

Bear, specifically, was more aggressive than the first two games of the season, where he shot one foul shot. Bear was 7 of 9 from the free-throw line against the Knights.

“He’s such a gifted offensive player,” Heaps said. “He’s got good elevation where he can score over people, but we want him to be more aggressive and get more touches. He should be at the free-throw line eight or nine times.”

The Mavs’ bench made big contributions, scoring 32 points, led by King’s 13.

“I like to put together a starting five with all the components we want and a group off the bench with all the components we want,” Heaps said. “I look at a Shawn King and a Colton Burgon coming off the bench. Those two could start for a lot of teams in the RMAC.

“It’s a sacrifice. We talk about minutes played. You’ll get your opportunity. When we go to our bench, we stay as strong as when our starters were in. When your bench outscores theirs 2-1, it’s a big lift.”

CSU-Pueblo 53, Dixie State 49: The ThunderWolves’ defense stifled Dixie State, limiting the Red Storm to 28.8 percent shooting for the victory.

CSU-Pueblo (2-1) went on a 16-3 run to open the second half and shot 63 percent in the second half.

Ryan Arel led the ThunderWolves with 12 points. Ty Trahern and Andre Martin each had 11.

The Red Storm (2-2) got 14 points from McKay Massey and Griffon Jones had 11.



UP NEXT: Dixie State vs. Colorado Mesa,  7 p.m. today at Brownson Arena


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