Freshman Wells has big game in Colorado Mesa victory
Welcome to college basketball, DJ Wells.
The redshirt freshman for Colorado Mesa’s men’s basketball team went 10 for 10 from the field and scored 22 points to lead all scorers Friday night as the Mavericks routed Diné College (Arizona) 120-33 in the Comfort Inn Classic at Western State in Gunnison.
It was a runaway from the onset against the NAIA school, although CMU coach Andy Shantz said the Mavericks came out flat. It was the first game in the program’s history at Diné, a small Navajo college.
“What’s really tough about a game like that is keeping your energy, and we came out flat the first four minutes and went to the bench,” Shantz said. “Those guys gave us some energy and we kept that energy going after that.”
Mesa led 30-12 eight minutes into the game and for awhile it was a layup drill. Wells, a 6-foot-7 forward from Grand Junction, entered the game about seven minutes in. The Mavericks quickly went inside to him for a layup, his first collegiate points. He played in Mesa’s first two games last week, but did not score.
“He gave us a spark, finished around the basket,” Shantz said. “There’s no substitute for experience.”
He was one of five players to reach double figures, three of them reserves. Trent Clay scored 19 points and Ludvig Saldh 17, both coming off the bench. The second team, in fact, played more than the starters, who got 14 points in 14 minutes from Connor Nichols and 12 points in 17 minutes of playing time from James Sylvester.
Wells scored on a dunk for a 32-14 lead, then blocked a shot 19 seconds later, grabbed the rebound and finished with a layup off a pass from Sylvester on the other end, drew a foul and made the free throw.
A jumper by Saldh, a 6-8 freshman forward from Gothenburg, Sweden, with 8:11 to play got the Mavericks (1-2) over 100 points, 101-33. Mesa shot 71.7 percent from the field, 73 percent from the free-throw line (27-37) and out-rebounded Diné 50-25.
“It was important that we got guys in there who didn’t have a lot of experience,” Shantz said. “Obviously you don’t feel comfortable about (an 87-point victory), that’s not what you’re hoping for when you go in. It’s a first-year program, they’re trying to get it started, so we went in with no scout, no idea what their stats were. We went in and just wanted to execute.”