Free-throw shooting helps Mavs top Adams
Then there was one.
As in undefeated teams left in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference men’s basketball standings, and it’s not Adams State (7-1, 4-1 RMAC).
Colorado Mesa University took care of that Saturday night, knocking off the previously undefeated Grizzlies, 81-64 at Brownson Arena.
The win propelled the Mavericks into second place going into the Christmas break. When CMU returns to action Dec. 30, the Mavs (7-3, 5-1 RMAC) will play the one remaining undefeated RMAC team, Metro State, the No. 1 team in the nation, at 5 p.m. in Denver.
Colorado School of Mines was undefeated in conference play until losing Saturday at Nebraska-Kearney.
“We could’ve put our tails between our legs and had our head hanging down after that loss (last week to New Mexico Highlands),” Colorado Mesa senior Blake Francom said. “It would’ve been tough going into the Christmas break with a 6-4 or 5-5 record. They were big wins, especially the quality teams they were. Plus, we have to protect our home court.”
Michael Bear led the Mavericks with 24 points and four blocked shots. He scored nine of his points at the free-throw line.
Mike Melillo and Shawn King had 11 each. Jeff Hart and Francom scored 10 each.
The Mavericks took advantage of an aggressive Adams State defense, which committed a season-high 28 fouls.
CMU made its first 16 free throws before a miss and made a season-high 34 of 40 foul shots (85 percent).
“Free throws are probably the difference in the game,” Francom said. “You know they are going to foul a lot. Some aren’t going to be called, but you’ll still go to the line a lot. We’re a good free-throwing shooting team.”
The Mavericks dictated play against an up-tempo Adams State team by taking an early lead and keeping the Grizzlies at arm’s length.
“I thought our kids played well early,” CMU coach Jim Heaps said. “It’s key. It’s key anytime you play. You can’t dig out of holes constantly.”
The Mavericks led 36-27 at halftime.
“There is no reason for us to not execute our stuff,” Heaps said. “You’ve got to execute what you do. Every possession is equal. We’ve got to treat every possession like it counts.”
The Mavericks pushed the lead to 14 early in the second half with free throws and a dunk from Colton Burgon.
Adams State cut CMU’s lead to five with 12:17 left, but could get no closer.
“We gave them a little bit of a run,” Heaps said. “We turned it over in the second half against their press, but I thought our kids responded. We made that adjustment. I thought Blake’s play in the second half was really good. He gave us a lift off the bench.”
The Mavs’ bench combined for 33 points, led by King and Francom. Colton Burgon added eight points.
Francom hit a pair of free throws, then scored on a jumper a couple of possessions later for a 53-44 lead.
CMU pushed the lead to double digits again, only to see Adams State hit three 3-pointers in a one-minute span to bring it back down to single digits with 4:20 left.
From there, the Mavs continued to sink their free throws.
“Their style, that’s what they want to do is get you rattled and panic,” Francom said. “The big thing is you have to understand there is going to be some turnovers, some foul calls not made. We did a good job of not panicking. We regained our composure.
“Every time they made a run, we were able to relax, combat it and come back at them.”