Mavs force Adams State into man-to-man for win

Mesa State’s Jase Herl rises to the basket to score two of his 24 points on Saturday night during the Mavericks’ 80-67 win over Adams State at Brownson Arena.

Zone is a four-letter word to basketball offenses. Mesa State College’s men’s basketball team was surely cursing Adams State’s first-half zone Saturday night at Brownson Arena, but in the second half, the zone became a curse to the Grizzlies.

The Mavericks haven’t seen a lot of zones this season, and in the first half, they tried to jump-shoot their way past the zone. Shots, though, were hard to come by — the Mavericks shot only 31 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes.

“You can get a jump shot against the zone every time down the court,” Mesa State coach Jim Heaps said after the Mavericks finally snapped out of their first-half funk for an 80-67 victory. “That’s what zones are for, that’s why teams play zone, so you can shoot jump shots.”

And generally, the Mavericks can shoot their way out of a zone, but not Saturday, because they were shooting after only one or two passes and weren’t making the Grizzlies work on defense.

In their own man-to-man defense, the Mavericks weren’t aggressive and the Grizzlies were hitting uncontested 3-pointers on their way to building a 45-33 halftime lead.

A curse word or two may have been uttered in the Mavs’ locker room at halftime, but whatever was said, it worked. The Mavericks got the Grizzlies out of the zone defense and executed their offense against the man-to-man, shooting nearly 52 percent from the field in the second half.

“Coach got on us and we deserved it,” senior guard Jase Herl said. “He’s right, nobody keeps track of how many halves you win, it’s how many games. We’re a veteran group but at the same time, we need to be told stuff, and we know that.”

The Mavericks hit three straight layups to open the second half, attacking the zone, and when Herl hit a jumper from the wing to pull the Mavs within four, 47-43, three minutes into the second half, they had found their rhythm again.

Then Herl and Mike Dominguez turned the tide.

Herl stole a pass and drove in for a layup with 16:08 on the clock. Nine seconds later, Dominguez had picked off another pass and pulled up for a 3-pointer. In a four-minute span, Adams State’s 12-point lead had become a one-point deficit and the Grizzlies were calling time to try to settle down.

It never happened.

“They started the second half in (the zone) and we shot layups the first three times,” Heaps said. “We just drove in and shot layups against it. They had to come out of it and I thought we really executed our motion much better once they went to man.”

The Mavericks outscored Adams State 47-22 in the second half to wrap up the first half of play in the RMAC West Division still undefeated in conference play and should retain their No. 1 ranking in the Central Region this week.

Herl finished with 24 points on a night Dominguez could never get untracked offensively. Dominguez had 18 points, with 11 coming from the free-throw line, and Sean Flohr had 11 off the bench.

“Coach (Andy) Shantz and I had a talk at shootaround and he told me, ‘What got you going in the first part of the season was cutting and going hard and you’ve got to get back to that,’ ‘’ Herl said. “I really tried to focus on that tonight and it helped me out a lot.”


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