Mavs need hard-nosed effort at Western State

POWER PLAY: Mesa State’s Kurt Bangle is a powerhouse in the paint for the Mavs, who have put a bigger emphasis on playing hard-nosed basketball regardless of the risk of injury.

Mesa State College doesn’t have a throwback night in men’s basketball. Honestly, does anyone want to see the yellow uniforms again?

Last weekend, though, the Mavericks went old school.

No glitz, no glamour, just hard-nosed basketball, pound it inside, kick it back out for an open shot, and above all, fight for every loose ball and rebound.

And hey, if somebody gets bloodied, so be it.

“Jake (Swartzendruber) came over one time and said, ‘He elbowed me in the mouth,’ and was bleeding,” Mesa State coach Jim Heaps said. “I told him, ‘You’ve been hit in the mouth before. It’s basketball.’ ’’

Dislocated finger? Pop it back in place and let me go play.

Ryan Mathews dislocated the little finger on his right hand late in the game Friday night against New Mexico Highlands.

Before Heaps could alert the officials of the injury, trainer Geena Gaasch had put the finger back in place and Mathews was sprinting back onto the floor. No timeout, no tape. In fact, he hit a couple of crucial free throws down the stretch to help the Mavs hold off Highlands 68-65 and start the RMAC West Division 2-0.

“It’s an awfully painful thing,” Heaps said of the dislocation. “That kind of epitomizes what we’re trying to do, make it a war-type thing.”

And the war begins in the paint. Ask any of the Mavs and they’ll tell you the key to their success lies in their defense and post play.

“We need our big guys if we want to win. We need Jake and Kurt (Bangle) offensively, defensively, everything. They’re good enough. They have to come to play like they did tonight,” guard Jase Herl said after the Mavs’ win Thursday night over CSU-Pueblo.

Both nights, Bangle and Swartzendruber went up against talented big men and more than held their own. Jake Trahern, a 6-foot-9 senior, and Bangle were pushing and shoving all night trying to establish position on both ends of the floor. At one point, they were locked up so hard they pulled one another to the floor as the other eight men on the court were sprinting to the other end. No whistle, just two big guys hitting the deck, which players did all weekend.

Trahern who averages 13 points a game, scored eight points and had 10 rebounds. Saturday night, Chris Dunn, a 6-8 center, and Bangle traded hook shot for hook shot, but Dunn got into early foul trouble and played only 19 minutes. He had 10 points, down from his average of 14.4, and nine rebounds.

Offensively, the Mavs’ three big men didn’t light it up, combining for 30 points, but they took better shots and when the defense collapsed around them, they didn’t force shots. Instead, they found perimeter players for open jump shots.

“I think Kurt and Jake are starting to play better, especially defensively,” senior guard Ryan Mathews said. “They’ve had some tough assignments with those guys. Everyone’s starting to feed off each other and starting to play well now.”

The Mavericks (8-9, 5-4 RMAC) play tonight at Western State (9-8, 6-3) in what’s always a hard-fought rivalry game. The Mountaineers are one of the most improved teams over the past year in the conference but are coming off a pair of home losses to Highlands and CSU-Pueblo to open West Division play.

After losing at CU-Colorado Springs to end play against the East Division at 3-4, Heaps and the Mavs sat down to chat.

“After UCCS, we talked in the locker room, that’s what we’ve got to be. We’ve got to be an at-the-basket, attack-it type of team,” Heaps said Friday night of the old-school approach.

“When we settle into a jump-shooting team, we’re not very good.

“What we are is an execute and attack-at-the-basket team. We attack at the basket and kick and we’ve got capable shooters. We’re not scared to shoot the ball and we will keep shooting, but that’s not what we are.

“Every team has an identity and ours has to be we’re gonna come at you.”


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