Mesa men want to end road struggles

QUICKREAD

COLORADO MESA (8-7, 6-5 RMAC)

Last Season: Mines defeated Mesa 55-52; CCU defeated Mesa 64-53.

Coach: Jim Heaps, 16th season (273-156)

Notes: CMU leads the RMAC in field goal percentage defense (.373). CMU junior Jeff Hart and redshirt freshman Mike Melillo made the RMAC All-Academic second team, announced this week. Hart has a 3.80 GPA in business and Melillo has a 3.68 GPA in business. Chandler Burgon, Colton Burgon, Blake Francom and Kevin Screen made the honor roll.

No. 12 COLO. MINES (13-2, 9-2 RMAC)

Coach: Pryor Orser, 11th season (159-137)

Notes: The Orediggers are 8-0 at home this season. They lead the RMAC in field goal percentage (.489) and scoring margin (+12.6). Mines is led by preseason All-RMAC junior guard Brett Green (16.9 points per game) and senior center Dale Minschwaner (12.6 points per game). The Orediggers match up well with Mesa in the post with eight players 6-foot-6 or taller.

COLO. CHRISTIAN (2-13, 1-10 RMAC)

Coach: Kevin Lubbers, 1st season (2-13)

Notes: The Cougars have 11 sophomores on their roster. CCU is scoring an RMAC-low 61.1 points per game and is being outscored by 18.5 points per game. The Cougars are last in the RMAC in rebounding margin (-10.9 per game). Mesa is second in the RMAC in rebounding margin (+7.1). Daniel Pilkington leads CCU with 9.9 points per game.



Little things can make all the difference, especially on the road.

The Colorado Mesa University men’s basketball team is finding that out this season.

The Mavericks have lost four of their five road games this season by a combined six points.

In three of those games, Mesa (8-7, 6-5 RMAC) lost by one or two points.

“We’re all really frustrated,” Mesa senior forward Michael Bear said. “Our losses by one or two comes down to not being able to finish it. The key is sticking together. That’s how you close games. If we’d done one or two different things, we might have won those games. That’s what we’ve got to do our next games.”

The Mavericks will get an opportunity to do something different to win a road game this weekend. Mesa plays at 12th-ranked Colorado School of Mines (13-2, 9-2 RMAC) at 8 p.m. on Friday in Golden, then at Colorado Christian (2-13, 1-10 RMAC) at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Lakewood.

“I feel like we’ve got to play better throughout the game,” CMU coach Jim Heaps said. “We lose a lot of possessions when we’re just not executing what we do on the offensive end. When it comes down to the last shot, sometimes they fall, sometimes they don’t. It’s tough when you go through it, but our plan is let’s try to play better basketball through the 40 minutes so it doesn’t come to (a final shot to win).”

Colorado Mesa is 0-3 in games decided in the final seconds this season.

“What happens in the last few seconds almost never happens how you draw it up,” Heaps said. “It always comes down to players making plays. At Western State, we got the ball into our best scorer’s hands, he took the shot. That’s what you want.”

Mesa’s youth could be factor in its road struggles. Five of the Mavericks’ top eight players in minutes played are freshmen or sophomores. Last year, Mesa had seven juniors or seniors play a majority of the minutes. Lance Fite, Russell Gregory and Kalonji Paschal were all confident and capable of taking and hitting the last shot, but they are all gone.

The Mavericks haven’t found that player yet this season, but it doesn’t mean no one is willing to take that shot.

Bear did last week in a 58-57 loss at Western State.

He says he’s confident in himself and his teammates to take it and make it.

“I think what the defense gives us determines (who takes the final shot in a close game),” Bear said. “I think we all have confidence to take the shot and confidence in each other to take that shot.”

Mesa is at least giving itself a chance to win road games in the competitive RMAC even when the Mavs aren’t drawing fouls and hitting free throws.

“We are giving ourselves a chance at the end, it’s just not going our way,” Heaps said. “Now is the time we’ve got to stay together and keep showing up.

“We’re doing a good job of hanging around, we’ve just got to finish now. This team is more than capable of winning every time they go out on the floor.”


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