Defense lifts Mavs to rout of Rangers
This was not the team that played Regis University on New Year’s Eve.
No, this was the Colorado Mesa University men’s basketball team that coach Jim Heaps sees every day in practice — and then some.
“I told them I don’t know if I’ve ever had a group play defense from start to finish as well as we played it,” Heaps said Friday night after the Mavs’ 71-36 victory. “A lot of times we’ll get a lead and it’s easier to relax a little bit, (think) ‘We’ve got this one.’ I didn’t see any letdown when we went to the bench, when the score got expanded; I didn’t see any letdown whatsoever.
“I thought that was great and we kept executing on the offensive end. We kept going inside and executing our offense on that end. I was really pleased with our effort.”
The Mavericks played relentless defense for 40 minutes, no matter if they were up by 30 or down by three, which was the biggest lead of the night for the Rangers, 8-5 only six minutes into the game.
After that it was all Mesa, who shared the ball and made the extra pass on offense and allowed only 14 points in the second half by challenging every shot, and there weren’t many of those. Regis (4-14, 1-13 RMAC) managed to take only 19 shots in the second half, making four.
Regis’ one conference victory was against Mesa on Dec. 31, and the Mavs weren’t about to make the same mistake of not showing up ready to play again.
“They beat us at their place and as players we definitely saw it as a chance for payback and revenge,” backup guard Daniel Estes said. “We were more energetic than usual and we need to keep that going (tonight) and the rest of the season. If we bring the energy like that, we’re tough to stop.”
Mesa (10-8, 8-6) shot 52.8 percent from the field, the result of that stifling half-court defense and controlling the boards.
And when their leading scorer, senior Michael Bear, hit the floor three minutes into the second half, clutching his right ankle and wincing in obvious pain, the Mavericks didn’t get down.
They helped Bear to the bench, and then, up 36-26, they put their collective foot on the gas and blew past the Rangers.
“He sprained it pretty good,” Heaps said. “That’s usually about a three-week deal. He’s tweaked it a few times this year and he said it hasn’t hurt like this since he did it last year.
“He’s got bad ankles and you feel so bad for him. It’s his senior year and he’s playing so well. We’ve got a lot of good players in that locker room; we’ve never been a one-man team, we never will be. It’s next man up.”
Chandler Burgon, not known for his scoring, scored six second-half points, including a dunk to open the second-half scoring and a power move inside to split two defenders for a basket.
His kid brother, Colton, knifed his way inside and took pass after pass from the guards, who got dribble penetration and dished off after drawing the defense.
Colton Burgon, who will likely move into the starting lineup for Bear tonight, finished with 15 points. Bear had 11 points, all in the first half, and said he didn’t think he stepped on anyone’s foot under the basket, but his right ankle just gave way.
Only point guard Kevin Screen, who had five assists, one steal and only one turnover, didn’t score for Mesa, which plays No. 3 Metro State at 7:30 tonight.
Estes gave the Mavericks a defensive spark and grabbed four rebounds and had four assists. He was on the scoring end of a pretty 3-on-1 break in the first half for a 30-16 lead.
Jeff Hart stole the ball and he, Mike Melillo and Estes took off, passing the ball from one to the other, with Estes finishing.
Shawn King followed his own miss with a layup, then took a pass when Colton Burgon drew a double team and found him open on the back side and scored.
The Rangers had a span of nearly nine minutes in the second half without a field goal, and by the time they finally hit one, the Mavs were up 55-30.
“We felt we had a major size advantage and we wanted to make sure to get post touches every time,” Colton Burgon said. “We didn’t have to shoot every time, we could pass it out and get wide-open shots. If we went inside-out we’d get easy shots, whether it was layups or kick-out 3s, and we got both.”