Mesa rides defense to win over Eagles
The reason for the Colorado Mesa women’s basketball team’s 21-game winning streak isn’t that difficult to figure out.
“We did a great job defensively,” coach Taylor Wagner said Saturday after the second-ranked Mavericks outscored Chadron State 56-29 in the second half to beat the Eagles 95-62.
“We contested shots. I thought we did a great job defensively, playing with a lot more energy. We found each other. It was a good half. The second half showed what we can be, but we have to put together a whole game, and the girls know that.”
Colorado Mesa (21-0, 17-0 RMAC) led by only six points at the half, 39-33, but scored the first eight points of the second half and never looked back. Mesa shot nearly 73 percent from the field in the second half, hitting 24 of 33 shots.
What Wagner liked almost as much as how the Mavericks played defense was how they finished the game. Although the outcome was secure less than halfway through the second half when Leanndra Gilbert hit a 3-pointer for a 21-point advantage, they didn’t let up.
Their biggest lead of the game was 33 points with only 11 seconds to play.
“The last two games we didn’t finish well in the last two minutes, and that’s something we talked about tonight,” Wagner said. “We needed to finish off the game right, executing and not turning the ball over.”
Turnovers weren’t an issue as CMU committed only three in the game and only one in the second half. On the other end, the Mavericks forced 17 turnovers and scored 26 points off them.
Mesa’s inside-outside attack was working, with Sharaya Selsor scoring 25 points on 12-of-19 shooting and Aubry Boehme adding 22 points. Gilbert added a season-high 12 points, and Christen Lopez had her first double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 assists, tying her career high.
“Aubry struggled early on, missed a bunch at the basket,” Wagner said. “She hit more outside shots in the first half than at the basket. They were backing off, and she turned and faced up. The second half she figured it out and was more aggressive and had what she wanted in the paint.”
Gilbert’s performance in practice last week earned her more playing time.
“She’s been playing great defense in practice. She’s even gotten after Sharaya a little bit,” Wagner said. “(Kattie Ranta) is one of the top scorers in the RMAC, and we put her on her, and she brought a lot of energy, like in the Western State game.”
Ranta, who averages 17.5 points per game, finished with 10 for the Eagles (4-17, 4-13), with Kayli Rageth leading Chadron with 25 points.
With their longest road trips out of the way, the Mavericks are home for three of the final five games of the regular season.
“We’ve gotta understand we’re getting everybody’s best,” Wagner said. “Chadron was really energized. We have to start a little bit better, and that’s being a little bit more disciplined defensively. With all the energy (opponents) give, I want to get out and set the tone early in that first five minutes.
“We haven’t done that the last couple of games. Coming home should help us with our crowd.”