Deep bench gives Mavs lots of options during games
Whether it’s providing scoring off the bench, defense, rebounding, handling the ball or providing a spark at any position, the Colorado Mesa University women’s basketball team has a Mav for that.
Depth was an issue during Roger Walters’ first two seasons, but the Mavericks have settled into a 10-player rotation this winter.
“It’s another recruiting class,” Walters said. “With each class comes better competition, more depth, more talent, more athleticism.”
The Mavs (7-5, 5-3 RMAC) hope that depth helps them stop their current two-game losing skid today when they host CSU-Pueblo (9-2, 6-1) at 5:30 p.m. at Brownson Arena. Saturday at 5:30, Colorado Mesa faces CU-Colorado Springs (7-5, 3-4).
“The last time we had two losses in a row we came out and won seven in a row,” senior guard Hillary Duncan said. “I’m hoping those two losses will get our focus back and get us going.”
Duncan, a 5-9 senior transfer from Oklahoma Christian University, has a pretty mid-range jumper, can slash to the basket or pull up in transition. She’s comfortable coming off the bench, averaging 8.5 points a game.
“It’s nice to be able to bring a kid who can score double figures off the bench, and she gets as many minutes as anybody,” Walters said. “It’s a nice luxury to have.”
She’s not the only impact player, though.
Sophomore Hanna Bowden, a 6-1 post, knows exactly what her impact should be for Mesa.
“Get rebounds,” she said, grinning. “That’s my reason for going in.”
She gets her points (4.1 per game) mainly off her work on the boards.
“I’ve never really been an offensive-minded person,” she said. “Ever since I can remember, I’ve been told to go get rebounds.”
And she does, averaging 4.4 rebounds per game in about 16 minutes of playing time.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a player who doesn’t want to be in the starting lineup, but the reserves accept their roles.
“Everybody wants more playing time of course, but that’s more motivation to play hard and get good minutes,” Duncan said. “We’re doing pretty good; it’s a good rotation.”
They’re holding the fort, as Walters says, so only guard Katrina Selsor averages more than 30 minutes a game. Selsor is on the floor 33.2 minutes a game, Kelsey Sigl 29.8 — they combine for 29.2 points and 13.4 rebounds a game.
“Everyone can stay fresh. You’ll play your butt off for a little bit, come out and take a breather and go in and do the same thing. It’s a whole lot nicer that way,” Bowden said.
Duncan and Bowden know who they will be spelling on the floor, but Alaina Brennan is the consummate role player. The 5-6 senior can — and does — play any spot on the floor.
“She’s our utility kid. Some nights if we’re struggling in the post and we need some energy there, she can play that position,” Walters said. “She’s been in our program three years so she knows every spot. She can play a wing, but when our wings are playing well, there’s not a lot of minutes there because we’ve got Katrina, Jimmy (Tara Gehring) and Hillary.
“If our point guards are struggling, she can play there. Minutes are there for Alaina, she just doesn’t know where they’re coming.”
Two freshmen have become integral players off the bench, 5-10 forward Leanndra Gilbert and 5-7 point guard Dallas Rohrbaugh.
Gilbert, who redshirted last season, backs up Sigl at power forward and like every freshman is learning as she goes.
“Lea is so physically gifted that when she gives great effort she’s spectacular,” Walters said. “But that great effort has to happen all the time. Again, she’s a freshman and sometimes we forget that.”
Rohrbaugh, a point guard from Erie, has one start this season, but splits time with Effo Baker.
“We expect so much of her and she is just a freshman,” Walters said. “It’s going a hundred miles an hour and she’s done a really good job with it.
“She’s just scratching the surface in terms of her ability.”
Just like the starters, the reserves’ playing time depends on one thing — effort.
“It all boils down to effort,” Walters said. “Some games kids don’t see the floor as much. There’s a correlation between effort and time; there just is.”