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