Mesa men hit 14 3-pointers in key victory over Cowboys
New Mexico Highlands tried to take away Colorado Mesa’s big man, and the guards responded.
The Mavericks hit the most 3-pointers in a game they have in eight years to rout the Highlands men’s basketball team 97-80 on Friday night at Brownson Arena.
“This is a huge win,” CMU junior Jon Orr said. “We definitely needed it with us and Highlands neck and neck for the playoffs, but every game from here on out is a huge win.”
The Mavericks (11-11, 9-9 RMAC) moved two games ahead of Highlands (10-12, 7-11 RMAC) for the final RMAC tournament spot with four games left.
Mesa hit 14 3-pointers, the most since it made since 14 in a 69-46 victory on Jan. 21, 2006, at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.
Orr, Landon Vermeer and Jerry Duckworth each hit four 3-pointers to lead the way.
Orr finished with 19 points, two shy of a career high. Vermeer and Ryan Stephan each had 17 points. Duckworth scored 14 points and Joe Kiely added 12.
“Coming into tonight’s game with how they play defense, we wanted to set good screens,” Vermeer said. “For teams that switch, they get confused, and you get wide-open shots. We always want to go inside-out through Steph. It opens up a lot on our offense, and guys were knocking down shots.”
Colorado Mesa shot 60 percent from the floor for the game, including 56 percent from the 3-point line. The Mavericks had 23 assists to 10 turnovers.
“Obviously we shot the ball well, and it was a good thing we did, because we were still down at halftime,” CMU coach Andy Shantz said. “With Ryan in the post, they were doubling and trying to get the ball out of there, and he still goes 7 for 10 with 17 points. He’s obviously a tough matchup. When we start doing that, we play inside-out, then our kids are hitting shots and become more difficult to guard.”
Orr jump-started the Mavericks, hitting four 3-pointers in the first nine minutes of the game. His fourth one gave Mesa a 23-16 lead.
“The first shot started off good and lifted my confidence,” Orr said. “The whole team rallied around it, and everyone started hitting. It feels good when everyone’s hitting.”
Five different players hit at least one 3-pointer in the first half. Vermeer hit three of Mesa’s 10 in the first half.
Mesa shot 61 percent from the floor in the first half, but trailed 48-44 at halftime because Highlands nearly shot the ball just as well, hitting 56 percent.
The Cowboys closed the first half with a 21-7 run with a couple of 3-pointers, but most of their points came on drives to the basket.
“We talked about our intensity in the first half and physicalness,” Shantz said at halftime. “Any time a team is going 60 feet down the middle and shooting layups, it’s going to bother me. I communicated that at halftime. It was nice to see our kids not hang their head, but respond.”
The Mavericks’ defense tightened up in the second half, limiting the Cowboys to 29 percent shooting in the second half.
Mesa went on an 11-2 run that included a pair of 3-pointers from Duckworth for a 67-57 lead.
Then, the Mavs went back to Stephan in the post. Stephan scored on three of the next four possessions for a 73-59 lead.
“It just took a while tonight,” Shantz said. “Ryan does a good job of continually posting. He screens, then post. What was nice to see was that patience with it, especially when you’re hitting a lot of jump shots early. We kept staying with the game plan. When Ryan touches the ball, usually good things happen.”
Highlands pressed, attempting to force turnovers and get quick baskets, but Mesa broke the press and scored layups or drew fouls the rest of the way.