Late rally falls short for Mesa men

Colorado Mesa’s men’s basketball team again dug itself into hole. This time, the Mavericks couldn’t dig their way out.

Black Hills State held off the Mavericks’ rally for a 74-66 RMAC victory on Saturday night at Brownson Arena.

“This one was tough,” CMU junior guard Jerry Duckworth said. “We were confident in the fact we could beat them.

“We come out tentative. I don’t know why. I don’t think it has anything to do with Coach and the way he prepares us. I think guys are so nice and unselfish, it kind of hurts us. We need to come out more assertive. I think, if we wanted to, we could score 80 to 90 points each night.”

The Mavericks (3-3, 1-1 RMAC), who trailed at halftime for the fifth time in six games, rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit and finally took a 62-61 lead with 2:36 left, but Black Hills (4-2, 2-0 RMAC) hit nine of 12 free throws to close out the victory.

“The kids had a hard time trying to figure out what (the officials) were going to call and not call, but to be honest that didn’t matter, (the Yellow Jackets) played great,” CMU coach Andy Shantz said. “They have a really good basketball team. They compete hard. I thought they played harder than we did. We keep giving up nine, 10-point leads at half. It’s hard to crawl out of night in and night out.”

Three players scored in double figures for both teams. The Yellow Jackets were led by Myles Henry with 22 points off the bench. Tommy Earl had 15, including nine in the final nine and a half minutes of the second half.

Ryan Stephan led Mesa for the second consecutive night with 16 points, but was held to two in the second half. Duckworth scored 13 and Joe Kiely had 12.

The Yellow Jackets tightened their defense, forced turnovers and went on a 12-2 run for a 19-14 lead. They pushed their lead to 11 at halftime.

The Mavericks had 10 of their 13 turnovers in the first half.

“That’s been our M.O. for whatever reason, we turn the ball over in the first half and the second half we take care of it,” Shantz said. “I don’t know if its not being prepared to play, but it’s got to change. That’s a big reason why we’re down at halftime.”

Mesa slowly picked away at Black Hills lead and finally took the lead when Landon Vermeer hit a pair of free throws with 2:36 left, but the Yellow Jackets scored on their next three possessions for a 66-62 lead.

Duckworth hit a 3-pointer in the corner with 26 seconds left to get Mesa within one point at
67-66.

“We shouldn’t have been down in the first place,” Duckworth said. “Shots like that don’t mean a lot to me. It would’ve meant a little bit if we won the game.

“My guy was the one that scored the last four points before I hit the 3, so I owe my team at least one shot.”

Mesa pressed Black Hills out of a timeout with 23 seconds left. Black Hills beat the press over the top, but guard Brady Bisgaard was fouled by Kiely going in for a layup and went flying into the bleachers under the north basket.

“Coach was telling us to face guard all the guards up top,” Duckworth said. “They threw it over the top. Joe’s a fast guy. I was closer to him than Joe was, but Joe got to him before I did. Joe definitely didn’t intentionally foul him.

“I was right there with a perfect angle. He literally reached and hit the ball and his shoulder caught his back and they were running super fast.”

Players began to argue and offsetting technical fouls were issued. Bisgaard hit two free throws for a 69-66 lead with 21 seconds left.

“If your teammate’s in that situation, you’ve got to have your teammate’s back,” Duckworth said. “What happened was Joe was trying to apologize to him and give him a (high) five and the dude had attitude. That’s when the dude pushed off and obviously everyone reacted.”

The Mavericks were forced to foul the rest of the way and Black Hills State made seven of eight free throws to close out the victory.


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