Mathews leads surge in 2nd half as Mesa holds on for win

Mesa State’s Jase Herl tries to make it past two Johnson and Wales defenders during Saturday night’s game during the Holiday Inn Classic.

Ryan Mathews was feeling it.

And it was a good thing, because Mesa State College needed every point it could get Saturday night against Johnson & Wales in the final game of the Holiday Inn Thanksgiving Tip-Off.

“They’re a scrappy bunch,” Mesa State head coach Jim Heaps said of Johnson & Wales after the Mavericks fought back for a 71-68 victory. “They play hard and hit shots. We got a little run and got up nine or 10 and they didn’t quit. I told the kids that a lot of times over the course of a 31/2-month season you’ve got to find a way to win a game.”

The Mavericks found a way with Mathews scoring 17 of his 21 points in the second half.

“It was nice to see Ryan have a breakout game offensively because he’s such a good shooter,” Heaps said.

Jase Herl led Mesa State (3-2) with 24 points and hit four crucial free throws in the final 22.8 seconds to keep the Mavs’ margin just wide enough to hold off the no-fear Wildcats.

No matter where they were on the floor, the shooters from Johnson & Wales were ready to put the ball up, and in the final three minutes, Ethan Evenson hit a couple of “are you kidding me?” 3-pointers to keep the ’Cats in contention.

Mathews, though, was matching him in the impressive shot department.

He hit a deep 3 from the wing early in the second half to pull the Mavs within two, 37-35, but the Wildcats went on a 7-0 run before Mathews’ next 3 from the wing.

Andre Carter buried one from the left side, then came up with a steal and a layup to pull the Mavs within one, 44-43.

He almost had another steal, but just missed the ball at the top of the key and ended up turning a cartwheel to avoid hitting the floor, then hustling back on defense.

“He’s picking and choosing his times,” Heaps said of Carter’s gambling nature on defense. “If he’s on a kid he needs to be aware of, he stays at home, but if his guy’s less of a scoring threat he’ll take his opportunities.”

Herl hit a pair of free throws to give the Mavs their first lead since the first three minutes of the game, 45-44, with 10:41 to play.

The Mavericks eased the lead to five, but Andrew Baker hit a 3 for Johnson & Wales before Mathews stole a pass and on the other end came off a curl cut, hit a jumper and was fouled. He added the free throw for a 54-49 lead.

After Jake Swartzendruber hit a pair of free throws, Mathews settled into the corner and hollered for the ball.

Ryan Mortensen delivered the pass, and without hesitation, Mathews buried another 3.

“I think it’s just a rhythm thing, you hit one and you start feeling it and start running around and get your second wind.”

Even though Mathews is a 3-point shooter, he admitted the Mavs, early on, were a little off and shot too quickly. Mesa State finished 6 of 20 from the 3-point line but made up for it by hitting 23 of 30 from the free-throw line.

“A lot of teams live and die by the 3s and I think we’re trying to go more 3s than we should,” he said “Last night we hitting so we thought we would tonight.”

Western State 77, Colorado College 70:

The Mountaineers forced 19 turnovers and shot 50 percent for their second victory in the tournament.

Western State (3-1) went on a 14-6 run to close the first half and withstood a Colorado College rally in the second half.

Justin Avalos led Western State with 21 points. Cameron Burney had 14 and Brandon Gentry added 13.

Nick Rose led Colorado College (1-5) with 30 points. Brady Ohlsen added 26 points and nine rebounds.


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