Mavericks ready for game after long layoff
Practice? We’re talking about practice?
For the past 10 days, that’s all the Colorado Mesa University men’s basketball team has done, at least to the players.
After opening the season nearly two weeks ago with a split in St. George, Utah, the Mavericks finally get to play a game again. They host Colorado State University-Pueblo, Dixie State (Utah) College and Southern Virginia University in the Clarion Inn Thanksgiving Tip-off Classic on Friday and Saturday at Brownson Arena.
CSU-Pueblo plays Dixie State at 3 p.m. Friday and Mesa plays Southern Virginia at 7 p.m. Friday. Pueblo and Mesa will swap opponents Saturday.
“We’re excited,” Mesa junior center Chandler Burgon said. “We’ve been practicing a long time and beating up on each other. It will be nice to beat up on someone else.
“This is what you play for, to play games at home. We have great community support. That’s why I came here. I played at Dixie before here. There wasn’t a base of fans, but here it’s phenomenal.”
For Mesa coach Jim Heaps, all those days practicing has allowed the Mavs to fix some mistakes, mainly turnovers that cost the Mavs in their loss to nationally ranked Seattle Pacific (Wash.) University.
“We’ve had nine practices to correct things,” Heaps said. “We know how we play and that our strength is our post players. There’s not a lot of teams with the size we have. We need to do a better job of getting the ball to them.
“That’s what happened (against Seattle Pacific). We tried to get the ball to them, but we turned it over. It’s not for a lack of effort, but we didn’t execute it very well.”
Burgon, one of three returning starters and eight returning letterwinners, believes the Mavericks have the talent to make another NCAA tournament run, but knows they have some work to do to get there.
“I feel like we have all the talent in the world,” Burgon said. “We just need to do our thing and not get big-headed. We’re extremely strong defensively. When we take our time and are unselfish, we’re very talented offensively.
“What we found, we’re the type of team, we’re so big we can get layup after layup.”
The Mavericks need to be patient for that to happen.
“We’re going to be an inside-out type of team,” Heaps said. “It takes a little more patience to develop.
“We’ve got to be more consistent on offense. We have to take better care of the ball. That’s just the execution part. We have capable players, we just haven’t passed the ball well yet. We’ve had stretches we played well, but some we didn’t.”
The Mavs play a couple of teams similar to them this weekend in Southern Virginia and Dixie State.
Southern Virginia is Latter-Day Saints liberal arts college in the NAIA. The Knights reached the United States Collegiate Athletic Association national championship last season. The USCAA is an athletic association for small colleges with enrollments between 500 and 2,500 full-time students. It used to be the National Small College Athletic Association.
“They are a lot like us, but we’re just a little bit bigger,” Heaps said. “They play with a swagger. They almost beat Carroll (Mont.) College in Carroll. We’ve got to execute what we do. We have to be ready to play.”
Dixie State is coming off its best season since becoming a four-year NCAA Division II program. The Red Storm reached the Sweet 16, losing to eventual national runner-up BYU-Hawaii in the regional final.
“They will remind everyone a lot of us,” Heaps said. “They are big, like to run, but are not above pounding it inside. They like to play defense and are physical. It will be a hard-fought game. They are very talented, physical and well-coached.”