Defensive stops lift Mesa women to victory over New Mexico Highlands
What a difference 24 hours made for the Colorado Mesa University women’s basketball team.
“It was just night and day,” CMU coach Taylor Wagner said.
One night after struggling to beat Western New Mexico University, the No. 25 Mavericks put on a clinic Saturday night in an 85-51 rout of New Mexico Highlands at Brownson Arena.
The Mavericks (8-0, 4-0 RMAC) shot an efficient 50 percent from the field, limited Highlands to 29 percent shooting and dominated the glass, grabbing 46 rebounds to Highlands’ 28.
“To be honest, I thought about it a lot,” junior guard Sharaya Selsor said of the difference between Friday and Saturday. “I have no idea. Really, I think one of our biggest things that changed from last night to tonight is we got stops. And lots of stops.
“The fact that we got stops makes us more upset we didn’t get them last night. I think it was just our effort on defense.”
That was evident from the start, with the Mavericks’ defense clamping down and not allowing a point from the 13:35 mark of the first half until 8:58 remained, when Cwynnci Lobaugh hit a 3-pointer.
In that span, the Mavericks’ lead went from nine to 17 points.
“They’re averaging 72 points (actually 67) or something like that,” Kelsey Sigl said. “We really locked down on defense. That’s going to be our M.O., our defense. It’s going to win us games and championships.”
And the defense translated to offense, with the Mavericks running and scoring in transition and in the half-court offense.
It started with perimeter shooting, with three 3-pointers in the first five minutes, then the Mavericks went to work inside.
Sigl finished with 19 points and nine rebounds. Sharaya Selsor also scored 19 points, and Katrina Selsor added 17 points and 15 rebounds.
Up 38-24 after Effo Baker found an open lane to the basket with the shot clock running down, the Mavs got the ball back under their own basket. Katrina Selsor made a nice back cut and was all alone on the left side of the lane for the inbounds pass from her sister and scored. Then Sharaya Selsor drove and dished to Hanna Bowden for a layup, and Sigl caught a lob pass for a bucket and a 44-25 lead with 2:30 left in the first half.
Mesa shot 57.7 percent from the field in the first half to lead 46-28, and the Mavericks scored the first 13 points of the second half to build a 30-point lead five minutes in.
“That’s the thing we talked about, we’ve got to be better on our home floor,” Wagner said. “I think we held them to six points for 14 minutes (in the second half). They had 28 (at halftime), and I think it was 34 when I took those kids out. They were really active.”
And they got everyone involved. For awhile, the Selsors and Sigl were at their best, finding one another inside and outside. By sharing the ball and finding open players, Mesa had 20 assists on 29 baskets. Point guard Christen Lopez had a season-high nine assists.
“One thing we stressed is sharing the basketball,” Wagner said. “It’ll come back to you. You’ll get your shot because they’re going to have to pick their poison who they’re gonna guard. I think our kids buy into that because it’s not a big deal (who scores).”
Mesa didn’t back down in the second half as the lead started to grow. Mesa was up 30 seven minutes into the second half and the lead hit 40, 78-38, when Sharaya Selsor buried a 3 from the corner with 7:13 still to play.
“I think we’re really good when we play hard,” Wagner said. “When we don’t play hard we’re average, and the girls understand that. I hope that was a learning lesson, and luckily we didn’t have to pick up the loss to learn.”