Mesa men score 23 unanswered to beat Dixie

Colorado Mesa University’s Mike Melillo, upper left in white, tries to take a shot over Dixie State defenders, clockwise from upper right, Steven Larson, De’Quan Thompson and Zach Robbins during the first half of Saturday’s game at Brownson Arena.

Jeff Hart wears his emotions for all to see.

And when the senior forward for the Colorado Mesa University men’s basketball team hit a 3-pointer to finally give the Mavericks the lead Saturday night and Dixie State College called time, everyone at Brownson Arena saw those emotions.

He sprinted off the court hollering “yeah, baby!” as his teammates ran to chest-bump their leader.

The crowd was going nuts because it was witnessing something you don’t see every game.

A 23-0 scoring run.

“I didn’t know it was 23 unanswered,” Hart said after the Mavericks pulled away for an 80-61 victory in the final game of the Clarion Inn Thanksgiving Classic. “But yeah, down 14 to up 15 before you know it. That was a lot of fun.”

That’s right. The Mavericks (3-1) were down 41-27 with 17:24 to play, just after coach Jim Heaps was assessed a technical foul.

Seven minutes, six seconds later, CMU was up 50-41 after another 3 by Hart, who finished with 20 points.

“It was a timing thing,” Heaps said. “They hit the wall at the same time I got that T. I wasn’t trying to get us going by getting a T, but luckily Jeff started hitting some shots.”

After an ineffective first half on both ends of the floor, Heaps let the Mavericks know he wasn’t all that pleased, Hart said. They responded once Dixie (3-2) pushed its six-point halftime lead to 14, 41-27, on one free throw after the technical.

Heaps had already sent Shawn King and Landon Vermeer in off the bench, and they helped spark the defensive shift.

Suddenly the Mavericks were applying more ball pressure, anticipating passes and getting their hands on the ball. Mike Melillo blocked a shot under the basket, which resulted in a technical foul on De’Quan Thompson, and the Mavericks started rebounding better.

After a stagnant offense against Dixie’s matchup zone in the first half, the Mavs started cutting better.

Several times in the first half, the ball was passed around the perimeter, but none of the Mavericks were changing their spots on the floor.

“I took two timeouts and the media (timeout) and all I talked about was you’ve gotta move,” Heaps said. “It’s just like playing a switching man, same principle. You cut and screen and pin, but what you absolutely cannot do is stand there.”

A three-point play by Colton Burton, who finished with 22 points, started the Mavs’ comeback. During the run, Mesa shot 75 percent from the field (6 of 8) and made eight of nine free throws.

Dixie missed nine straight shots, turned the ball over six times, fouled five times, got one technical and called two timeouts trying to stop the Mavericks.

When Dixie’s Kimball Payne finally scored in the paint, the Mavericks had gone from down 14 to up seven, and Hart hit a jumper for a nine-point edge.

“I wanted to be more versatile this year,” Hart said. “Teams would scout me and play me for someone who would just cut to the hoop. I knew coming into this year I was going to have to be more of a threat from the outside.”

As the Mavs pushed the pace, the Red Storm, who lost to Fort Lewis on Friday in overtime, wore down. Burgon went to work inside on both sides, blocking shots and rebounding on defense and scoring on offense.

Mesa shot 65 percent in the second half, an even 50 percent (25 of 50) for the game and outrebounded Dixie by a half-dozen.

Dixie shot only 28.6 percent (8 of 28) from the field in the second half and scored 31 points to the Mavs’ 56.

“It’s just amazing how the other team gets tired they can’t guard the same,” Heaps said. “The kids are trying so hard, but you can see they’re a step slow.

“They’re trying to play major minutes and they got in some foul trouble and Colton took advantage of it. That’s why you have depth and why we recruit to depth. We have a lot of confidence in our kids.”

Fort Lewis 82, Northern New Mexico 70: The Skyhawks gave up only 28 second-half points to come back from a one-point halftime deficit and go 2-0 in the tournament.

Nick Tomsick scored 19 points and Alex Herrera 15, with Torrey Udall adding 11 off the bench for Fort Lewis (3-0).


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