Making the adjustment
Defensive changes help Mesa pull away from Fort Lewis
Things got a little too close for comfort the first few minutes of the second half Friday night for the Colorado Mesa women’s basketball team.
“I wanted to come out the second half and win that first five minutes and really stretch it out and put that doubt in them,” CMU coach Taylor Wagner said after the Mavs adjusted for an 89-65 victory. “There was a point in the first half we were up 16 and could have closed it.
“They got it to single digits and then we got it back up right before the break. That’s where you’ve got to have that killer instinct of hey, get it done. Not over, but get a comfortable margin so if you do make a mistake it doesn’t hurt you. We didn’t do that in the first half, either.”
Fort Lewis opened the second half on a 12-2 tear to cut a 14-point halftime deficit to only four, 46-42. The Skyhawks were beating the Mavericks on back-door cuts, cuts through the lane and had Mesa reaching and fouling.
On the other end, the fifth-ranked Mavericks were missing layups, jumpers and turning the ball over.
During a timeout, they figured things out on the defensive end, and that led to better offensive production.
“They back-doored us a couple of times,” Wagner said. “They did it in the first half and we talked about it (at halftime). You can’t give up a back door. That’s a layup and it’s going to take some of the momentum away and then somebody’s trying to compensate, then you foul.
“Maybe we got out and overplayed a little bit and they saw something and decided to go back-door on us. We can’t let that happen.”
It didn’t happen much after that, with the Mavericks making better decisions on switches, hitting the boards and attacking the basket. Taylor Rock converted a three-point play, then took a charge, Sharaya Selsor drew three straight fouls, hitting all six free throws.
And just like that, the lead was 11 when Selsor made a nice cut in the lane for a layup.
Then she hit a 3-pointer, and, with the shot clock running out, Laurel Kasel buried a jumper just inside the 3-point line for a 68-56 lead.
Right after that, Siu Lo’amanu rattled in a 3 from the corner, Christen Lopez drove and drew a foul, Rock scored on a curl cut through the lane.
And Selsor, who had seven first-half points, kept working to get free and drawing fouls — and making free throws.
“That’s what we talk about, the training,” Wagner said. “When you get in situations like this, then it becomes natural. Military police, anything like that. It’ll come to you, you’ve just got to be patient. She’s put her time in, she’s prepared herself for those situations, hitting shots, free throws. I’m really comfortable with her on the floor, obviously.”
Five Mavericks scored in double figures, with Selsor scoring 29 by going 14 of 15 at the free-throw line. She also had eight rebounds, six assists, one steal and only two turnovers.
“With the new rules, how do you stop her? She’s so aggressive getting to the basket,” Wagner said. “I know she was getting kind of frustrated, they were kind of grabbing her and she thought they were fouling her. I told her they’ll eventually call it and you’ll get that.
“She’s got to keep her head and be a great defender, be a great passer until your time comes. You saw that in the second half. She got open, she makes those shots, she stretches the game. She gets to the free-throw line, makes them, stretches the game. If you’re patient and let the game come to you she’s gonna have success.”
Lopez, the smallest player on the floor, finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and nine assists, Aubry Boehme added 11 points and Rock and Lo’amanu 10 each.
“This past week in practice I’ve figured out I need to come off the bench with some energy,” Lo’amanu said. “With that I’ve been getting comfortable and knowing where the girls are and getting the right shot or the right pass to Raya.
“It relieves pressure off her, which is what we need, and it also helps when they have to worry about four other players. (They) stop Raya, Rock’s gonna shoot it, Aubry’s gonna go off. Having five threats on the floor is a good key for us.”