Kenshalo lights up scoreboard for Mesa State
The kid was in the zone.
Every time Brian Kenshalo shot the ball Tuesday night, the players on the Mesa State College bench were on their feet celebrating.
During a span of 2 minutes, 11 seconds, Kenshalo couldn’t miss.
The redshirt freshman guard scored nine points and came up with a steal and two rebounds during the Mavericks’ 61-39 victory over Western State in Gunnison.
Kenshalo’s first basket, a 3-pointer in the corner on a kickout pass from center Kurt
Bangle, was part of the Mavericks’ 20-5 run that stretched their lead from 33-25 to 53-30.
That outburst came over a 5-minute span and sealed the victory, Mesa State’s third straight since starting RMAC West Division play.
For Kenshalo, who averages 2.7 points a game, hitting baskets at key times was a long time coming.
“I’ve been waiting 13 games or however many we’ve played (18) and finally it just took over,” Kenshalo said with a big grin after the game. “I felt like the first 13 games we played OK, but lately at practice Coach (Jim Heaps) has been getting on us. We had a team meeting and came together more as a family. When we’re good, we play as one and we win.”
That’s been the case since the Mavs lost at CU-Colorado Springs and Johnson & Wales, prompting a team meeting and a change in attitude. The Mavs (9-9, 6-4 RMAC) have played physical basketball, attacking the basket, fighting for rebounds and loose balls and playing tough defense. They hope to keep that going tonight in Silver City, N.M., against Western New Mexico (8-10, 4-6 RMAC), which lost Thursday night to Western State.
As much as Kenshalo, a 6-foot-3 guard out of Chatfield High School, has been waiting for a glimpse of a breakout game, his team has been waiting for the same thing.
“Brian Kenshalo was a real key,” Heaps said of the win in Gunnison, in which the Mavericks broke out of their first-half shooting slump (28 percent) to take control in the second half by shooting 65 percent from the field. “We’ve been waiting for that all year.”
Kenshalo got caught in what happens to a lot of players who come off the bench. Those minutes are crucial, and if you don’t produce, you don’t play.
“He gets a chance to play but his shots don’t fall, so his minutes go down,” Heaps said.
“Unless you can get some minutes and get into a flow, it’s hard to come in and hit shots.
So his minutes go down and it’s harder for him to hit shots.
“We talked, and he’s had a great attitude. He keeps showing up and playing hard.”
Heaps figured it was just a matter of time for Kenshalo.
“We’ve been expecting that since Day One. He can shoot the basketball,” Heaps said.
“He hasn’t shown it in games yet, but he can shoot the basketball. (Tuesday) he hit two big 3s and a 2 that were huge. But he also got an offensive rebound in the first half, he was doing other things around the shooting, and that was huge for us.”
Kenshalo, like the rest of the Mavs, is realizing the importance of defense to the Mavs’ success.
“Any defensive game, I believe Mesa has the advantage,” Kenshalo said. “That’s what our strength is.”