Mesa makes statement with rout of CSU-Pueblo
Just about everyone who walked into Brownson Arena on Thursday night was anticipating a barn-burner. Two teams undefeated in the conference? Game of the season.
The fifth-ranked Mavericks, though, had something else in mind.
The Mavericks (13-0, 9-0 RMAC) played their best game of the season, holding Colorado State University-Pueblo to only 28 percent shooting in an 83-42 runaway victory.
“We really wanted to make a statement,” said senior point guard Christen Lopez, who scored a career-high 20 points. “We talked about it all week in practice. We had a good week of practice, and we just knew they were the other undefeated team, and we wanted to come out and give it our all.”
After the game, CMU coach Taylor Wagner got a laugh from his players when he told them they actually listened to him.
“Defensively we played phenomenal. I don’t know why we haven’t done that all year. We talk about it all the time,” he said.
“At the end of the game, I told them they actually listened this week, they didn’t just hear me.”
Mesa’s defense never allowed the ThunderWolves (10-4, 7-1) to get into the game. Pueblo turned the ball over on its first three possessions, and the Mavericks quickly took a 6-0 lead.
Seven minutes into the game, the Mavericks were up 19-5, and their leading scorer, Sharaya Selsor, only had two points.
Lopez, though, was hitting jumpers and 3-pointers, and she and Selsor were finding open teammates.
Each finished with eight assists, and Colorado Mesa had 21 assists on 30 baskets.
“I just kinda took whatever they gave us,” Lopez said. “I was always looking for our posts, but then our posts found me, so I was able to knock those down, and that opened up other people. We were able to get everybody a good amount of shots.”
Despite being double-teamed all night, Selsor kept moving and cutting without the ball and finished with 20 points and eight assists.
The ThunderWolves were determined to keep Selsor in check and played tough in the post, but Aubry Boehme and Hannah Pollart combined for 20 points in the paint, with Boehme scoring a dozen.
“We need everyone to start scoring and playing their role, and we definitely did that tonight,” Selsor said. “Everyone played their role, did their thing, and the score of that game is the outcome we can have every game if we just play that way.”
As good as the Mavericks played defensively in the first half, they were even better after halftime, allowing only 15 points.
“We talked about it, as soon as we got into halftime, we have to do the same thing, we can’t relax,” Lopez said. “We have to do it all over again, another 20 minutes.”
“Hands down,” Selsor said when asked if that was the best defense the Mavericks have played this season. “If we commit to the defense like we just did, we’re putting ourselves in a really good situation for the rest of the year. Everyone just committed to it. It was fun to play.”
Pueblo got within 10 points, 37-27, with 3:38 to play in the first half. Instead of being content with that, the Mavericks went on an 8-0 run to close the half with a 45-27 lead.
“We haven’t been going on those big runs like we’ve been known to have in the past,” Wagner said. “We told them, even when you get tired, commit to two or three more possessions, then you stretch the lead.
“Then if I have to call a timeout to get you a breather or get a sub, we’ll do that. I thought we did that tonight. It felt like (the ThunderWolves) were on the ropes or got a little tired. We were able to get some layups out of it.”
That was evident coming out of halftime, when the Mavericks went on a 22-6 run to build the lead to 67-33 when Taylor Rock drove for a layup, drew a foul and hit the bonus. Three minutes later, the lead was 40.
The biggest difference from last week was how well the Mavericks took care of the ball, with only six turnovers. They committed 21 in a two-point win over Colorado Christian and had 16 the next night in a six-point win over Colorado School of Mines.
“You think about it, that’s 30 more points, or if they’re all 3s, 45. That’s a lot of points,” Wagner said. “If we’re shooting a high percentage, that equals points for us.
“It was just a fun game. They really got after it, and I think that was the first time we’ve really played 40 minutes of team basketball.”