Mavs seek consistency on the court
The Colorado Mesa men’s basketball team appeared to be hitting its stride going into the Christmas break.
Since returning from the week off, the Mavericks have slid backward, losing four of five games.
“We started out the year with two losses, and it seemed like we turned it around,” junior guard Mike Melillo said. “We were improving in several areas, mostly defensively and taking care of the ball. We need to shore those things up.”
Mesa had bigger losses this season in terms of score, but it is coming off one of its worst losses of the season last weekend, 83-74, against previously winless Western State Colorado University.
“Our execution wasn’t great,” CMU coach Andy Shantz said. “I felt our effort declined the last seven, eight minutes of the game. That’s when it’s got to elevate. Right now, I’m playing kids in too long of stretches, not too many minutes, but instead of seven, eight minutes at a time, we need to shorten that so we don’t have breakdowns.”
Shantz said part of the problem is playing at a consistent level, especially on defense.
“That continuity, consistency and understanding the grind of doing it night in and night out at this level, that’s definitely a tangible thing you can work on,” Shantz said. “That’s what we’ve got to do. I’ve got to hold them to that in practice every day, so we can build good habits.”
With that bad loss on their minds, the Mavericks (8-7, 6-5 RMAC) face third-ranked Metro State (14-1, 11-0 RMAC), last year’s national runner-up, at 7 p.m. Friday on the Auraria Events Center. Mesa plays Regis (4-12, 1-10 RMAC) at 5 p.m. Saturday in Denver.
“It’s a good week to have Metro,” Melillo said. “We know we’ve got certain things we need to get better at. If we don’t work on those things, maybe we think we can get by a worse team. We know we have to be perfect in all those aspects of the game in order to beat Metro.”
At this point, Shantz is more concerned about how the Mavericks play than the results.
“As a coach, it’s not if you win or lose, it’s how,” Shantz said. “I can live with losing Friday night. They’ve beat everyone they’ve played. It’s how you compete. Your defensive effort shouldn’t waiver. There’s no turning on the switch. Young people think, ‘I’m a gamer, when the game starts I can turn on the switch.’ There is no truth to that. It is a habit like anything else. You’ve got to create those habits.”
Metro State is led by the RMAC preseason player of the year, Brandon Jefferson, who is averaging 21.8 points per game on 49 percent shooting from the floor, including 52 percent from the 3-point line. He’s made more than 100 free throws this season. Shooting guard Mitch McCarron complements Jefferson with 15.5 points per game.
“You need to guard their two good perimeter kids, especially Jefferson and McCarron,” Shantz said. “Their post players are more than capable of beating you, too, but you’ve got to try to take something away for sure. When teams are balanced, that’s when they are hard to beat.”
The Regis game may look like a winnable game, but Shantz is cautious about it.
“Regis is misleading,” Shantz said. “(The Rangers) beat Air Force in an exhibition and lost to Colorado State by one in an exhibition game. After (last) Saturday night, we can’t take anyone lightly. They’ve lost some close games, but if we don’t have that consistency of effort, we won’t beat them either.”