High-energy Cougars win ovewr Mesa State
When a team’s energy level is at pitch equal to a PowerBar with a Red Bull chaser, it will often crash in the second half.
“They came out really sky-high, playing hard, trying to get a split on the road,” Mesa State College men’s basketball coach Jim Heaps said of Colorado Christian’s high-decibel bench and frenetic play on the floor.
“I didn’t think we met their intensity in the first half. I told them at halftime, teams that come out sky-high come back to earth. We had to pick up our intensity.”
The Mavs set the pace and the Cougars bonked early in the second half Sunday afternoon at Brownson Arena.
Just when Mesa State got back into the game, though, the Cougars caught their second wind for a 76-67 RMAC victory at Brownson Arena.
“What we needed to do was play better in the first half and we’re down five,” Heaps said. “If we’re down five and we make our run, now we’re up five instead of down three.”
Mesa State was down 13 at halftime partly because the Cougars couldn’t miss. When they did miss, they seemed to always come up with an offensive rebound.
The Cougars (4-4, 1-1 RMAC) scored 16 second-chance points off 11 offensive rebounds.
Mesa State (4-3, 1-1 RMAC) actually got one more offensive board than the Cougars and scored 13 second-chance points
Despite a career-high 29 points from Ryan Mathews, though, the Mavericks couldn’t match the Cougars’ shooters, mainly because they were pressing on offense.
Instead of running their motion offense, forcing the Cougars to play defense all over the floor, the Mavs either tried to penetrate the lane, where the Cougars were cutting off the gaps, or shot after only one or two passes.
“I’m not a big rah-rah guy, I don’t like peaks and valleys,” Heaps said. “We’re gonna run our motion and make you guys guard awhile and see how much you can cheer and rah-rah when you’re having to run off our screens.
“We didn’t do that. We came down, one side, maybe two sides of the floor and try to score.
They don’t have to play defense and they’re in that rhythm and going, ‘I can shoot and miss and it doesn’t matter because in 10 seconds we’re going to be on offense again.’ ’’
Several times, Heaps called out for the offense to settle down. The Mavs did that early in the second half, but then went back to trying to score too quickly.
“We have to run our offense, let the shot find you. It might be early in the clock, it might be late,” Heaps said.
“We’ve got to concentrate on running the offense. We got away from that trying to get back in the game. We have to try to play every possession and we’ll get back in the game because of that.’’
Christian shot 50 percent from the 3-point line in the first half and 41 percent overall. In particular, Brendan Puckett and Rye Olson were on target. Puckett hit 5 of 10 from long distance for his 17 points and Olson hit 4 of 6 off the bench for 12 points.
With that kind of shooting, the Mavericks had to pressure out on the perimeter, and that played right into the Cougars’ hands. They fed 6-foot-11 junior center Justin Neuhaus, who led Christian with 21 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots.
The Mavericks made their run to open the second half, with Mathews hitting a 3, then making nice baseline cuts for two layups. Another 3 from Mathews and two inside buckets from Kurt Bangle and the Mavericks were on a 22-10 run, pulling within three, 52-49, with 8:27 to play.
That’s when the Cougars caught that second wind.
Tyler House hit a pair of free throws after being fouled on an offensive rebound, and Jake Swartzendruber missed the front end of a one-and-one for the Mavs.
Christian grabbed the defensive rebound and in the blink of an eye, Puckett hit another line-drive 3. The Mavs were down eight again and the Cougars were in charge, going on a 15-4 run over the next five minutes to lead 67-53.
“We got it to three and had an opportunity,” Heaps said. “It takes so much energy to get it to three and it only takes two plays. They hit the free throws, we miss the front end and they
come right down and Puckett catches and hits.
“Now it’s eight. That was the ballgame. It shouldn’t have been, because there was still plenty of time.”