Mavs on the run
Mesa's transition game flourishes in easy win over Bethany
One of the first rules new women’s basketball players learn at Colorado Mesa is you run the floor on offense.
The new crop of post players showed Friday night that they, indeed, have learned, sprinting down the floor and catching the ball in transition for easy baskets. Mesa’s relentless attack and outstanding defense dismantled Bethany College 82-38 in the Holiday Inn-Airport Thanksgiving Classic at Brownson Arena.
“It’s like Coach (Taylor Wagner) says, you know you’re going to have people coming in for you, when you go in, just go all-out,” said Ma’ata Epenisa, a 6-foot junior center, who scored 13 points, most on layups in transition, “You’re gonna have a sub when you’re tired, so we go in and run the floor and hit layups.”
As soon as the Mavericks (2-1) cleared the rebound, the post players took off on the dead run, and the guards were looking for them, firing passes ahead for easy layups.
“It’s so fun. We try to practice that every day,” senior guard Bryanna Adams said. “I feel like last year we had bigs, but we needed to run. That was part of the game plan today, just run. We knew their bigs weren’t as fast as ours and we took advantage of that.”
All those easy baskets allowed the Mavericks to shoot 60 percent from the floor in the first quarter and 52.3 percent for the game.
“We struggled in other games but today everybody got a little bit of confidence,” Wagner said. “We haven’t been shooting the ball too well, and that’s one thing I was hoping we’d do in this game, see it go in and have a little bit of success.”
Adams, in particular, saw her shot fall time and time again, going 8 for 10 from the field, 4 for 6 from the 3-point line for her 21 points.
“It was good to see that going down, she was one of the girls who’s been struggling a little bit,” Wagner said. “To see the ball go in was good, she was taking rhythm shots. She did it all over, played good defense. It was fun to see her go off a little bit and lead us today.”
The transition buckets started right after Adams’ first 3 of the game, when freshman post Tori Catlett, who got her first college start, sprinted down the floor for a long pass from Nicole Archambeau for a layup. Epenisa subbed in a few minutes later and the running didn’t slow down.
“That’s the hardest part, you know you have to catch the ball first, and then finish,” Epenisa said. “That’s the hard part, control. If you’re running fast, then you have to slow down so your layup is soft.”
Epenisa also showed her strength, ripping the ball out of the hands of a Bethany player off a CMU miss for a layup early in the second quarter as the Mavericks started pulling away.
Even the guards got into the finishing act in transition, with freshman Holly Brooks releasing after Jaylyn Duran came up with the ball on a Bethany turnover and fired it ahead. Brooks’ little scoop shot beat the horn for a 22-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
After building a 43-23 halftime lead — a dozen players got in the game in the first half, and 16 Mavericks in all played, with all but three scoring — CMU did not let up. If anything, they played an outstanding third quarter, outscoring the Swedes (0-8), an NAIA school in Lindsborg, Kansas, 24-9.
Erin Reichle made the first two buckets of the half, then Adams put up eight points in less than two minutes, giving the Mavericks a 58-25 lead when she read a Bethany pass for a steal and layup with five minutes left in the quarter.
“I was just so excited, home court, beginning of the season, senior year, all that work in the summer is going to pay off,” Adams said.
The game got so out of hand that Wagner got several young players plenty of much-needed playing time, including 6-4 freshman center Maja Beier, who scored eight points and had nine rebounds in only eight minutes of playing time in her college debut. Duran finished with 11 points.
With two weeks between games, the Mavericks were eager to get out and play again.
“We haven’t played for two weeks. I wanted to make sure practice carried over to games,” Wagner said. “We fine-tuned some things we weren’t doing well the first weekend and we’ve got one more game to go to see if they’ve bought in.”
Western New Mexico 69, Western State 59: Jeylynn Fields scored 22 points, one of three Mustangs in double figures. The Mustangs led 36-30 at halftime, but Western State (0-3) cut the lead to three points, 53-50, on a 3-pointer by Brianna Wilber early in the fourth quarter.
Western New Mexico (4-1), which left the RMAC for the Lone Star Conference this year, went on an 11-3 run over the next five minutes to put the game away.
Harlie Williams scored 20 points for the Mountaineers, hitting a half-dozen 3-pointers.