Mavs push Metro to brink
Colorado Mesa University had the third-ranked Metro State men’s basketball team on the ropes Friday night, but the Mavericks couldn’t knock the Roadrunners out.
Metro State rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half to defeat Colorado Mesa 86-76 at the Auraria Event Center in Denver.
Although the Mavericks lost their second consecutive game and lost for the fifth time in the past six games, CMU coach Andy Shantz was pleased with the effort against last year’s national runner-up.
“We really competed tonight,” Shantz said. “We went in focused, but we had a hard time keeping them off the free-throw line. Metro is a good basketball team.
“Competing is something successful people have to do. It’s a good habit to get into. We emphasized it all week.”
Five players scored in double figures for the Roadrunners, led by RMAC preseason player of the year Brandon Jefferson with 30 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He shot 50 percent from the floor, hit three 3-pointers and was 13 of 17 from the foul line.
“He hit some deep, step-back shots,” Shantz said. “He hit some tough shots. He’ll probably win the (RMAC) player of the year.”
Nicholas Kay added 16 points, and Jamal McClerkin had 15 for the Roadrunners.
Colorado Mesa (8-8, 6-6 RMAC) was led by Landon Vermeer with 19 points. Jerry Duckworth had 18 points, and Carlos Perez had 13 off the bench.
The Roadrunners (15-1, 12-0 RMAC) went on a 17-3 run in the second half to take a 65-63 lead with four minutes left in the game.
It was the Roadrunners’ first lead since 17-16 with 6:46 left in the first half.
“They attacked the basket,” Shantz said of Metro’s late run. “They’re big and strong at every position. They went to the line a lot. We’ve got to work on not fouling. Our kids played hard. I was happy to see us be aggressive.”
The Mavericks had 29 fouls, and Ryan Stephan, Vermeer and Mike Melillo fouled out, all in the final minute of the game.
Metro State went up eight points on Kay’s dunk, assisted by Jefferson, with 2:12 left. The Roadrunners made seven of eight free throws in the final two minutes. They scored 36 points from the foul line, hitting 78 percent.
The Mavericks came out ready to play from the tip. The teams were tied six times and exchanged leads nine times in the first half.
Mesa went on a 7-1 run late in the first half for a 26-20 lead. Duckworth hit a 3-pointer, and Melillo made two free throws after a steal.
The Mavericks pushed the lead to 35-27 with 1:44 left in the half on a Nate Hawley jumper. Mesa led 35-31 at halftime.
Mesa shot 52 percent from the floor in the first half and limited Metro to 25 percent. The Mavs shot 50 percent for the game and Metro shot 40 percent.
Mesa also took care of the ball against the Roadrunners’ aggressive full-court press, with 16 assists and 13 turnovers.
“We talked all week that we’ve got to be aggressive,” Shantz said. “They are an unorthodox-type team. We have to be unorthodox against them. The most important thing was to be aggressive.
“Guys were flying around tonight. I was pleased to see that.”