Normally accurate Mavs can’t make shots, lose to CSU-Pueblo in RMAC Shootout

Ryan Mathews finds his shot knocked haywire as a Colorado State University - Pueblo player hits his arm instead of the ball late in the second half of Tuesday’s playoff

All those shots that didn’t miss the past two months simply would not fall Tuesday night.

And with those missed shots went Mesa State College’s season in a 64-59 loss to CSU-Pueblo in the quarterfinals of the RMAC Shootout at Brownson Arena.

“I think these last two games we just went into a slump,” senior guard Ryan Mathews said.

“Teams have those off nights and unfortunately ours came back-to-back against the same team. We thought coming back home we could get a rhythm going again. It was one of those nights.”

Early on, though, they looked like the Mavs of old, attacking the paint and hitting layups, short jumpers and an occasional 3-pointer.

They built a nine-point lead with 5:21 to play in the first half, but that’s when the
ThunderWolves came alive, rallying to go up 28-27 at halftime when the Mavs turned the ball over in the final seconds trying to run the clock for the final shot.

The Mavs (16-12) went right back up five to start the second half, but a 13-1 run put the ThunderWolves (15-13) back in control, 43-37, six minutes into the half.

In that span, Marc Williams hit two 3s, one of them an open look from the top of the key, as part of his game-high 20 points.

“We knew we had to play hard,” Williams said. “This is one of the hardest places to win in the RMAC. We had to stick it out all 40 minutes.”

Again, back came Mesa State, tying the game on a hook by Jake Swartzendruber and then taking a 49-47 lead when Mathews hit a baseline jumper on an inbounds play.

The biggest lead was five the rest of the way, when Williams hit one of two free throws with 29 seconds left.

The game was tied 57-57 when Sean Flohr made the back end of a two-shot foul with three minutes to play, but Mesa State scored only two points the rest of the way, a driving layup by Jase Herl with 22.7 seconds left.

It wasn’t as if Mesa State didn’t get good looks in that stretch — just the opposite.

Swartzendruber attacked inside, but his short jumper bounced off the rim. Herl went up for a tip, but it, too, missed. His second tip also missed and Williams came up with the rebound for Pueblo.

Mathews tried to tie up the ball but was called for a foul and Williams hit both free throws.

Free-throw shooting turned the game for Pueblo, which made 15 of 24. The Mavericks hit only 8 of 17.

“They knocked down shots when they had to and we didn’t,” Mesa coach Jim Heaps said. “In a game that’s this close, you’ve got to, especially from the free-throw line. We can’t miss nine free throws, that’s too much a part of what we do.”

It was what got the ThunderWolves back home for the RMAC Shootout for the first time in coach Patrick Eberhart’s four seasons and ended a 15-game losing streak at Brownson Arena.

Williams was the key player for CSU-Pueblo (15-13) and Rome Smith and Jake Trahern added 10 points apiece. Swartzendruber led the Mavericks (16-12) with 14 points and Herl had 10. Mathews, in his final game, ended up with nine points and fellow senior Bangle had six.

The loss dropped the Mavericks out of the regional playoff picture. Regional rankings will be released today, and the Mavs were expected to move up higher than No. 9, but will surely drop out Sunday when bids are extended.

The loss didn’t diminish what the Mavs accomplished in the West Division, Heaps said.

“I told them, at 6-9, there’s a lot of teams that would have started pointing fingers, fragmented, blamed everybody but themselves,” Heaps said. “The fact that they pulled together and went 10-2 against the West, against a group of teams that made up the West this year and battled back, I couldn’t be prouder of them.

“Losing tonight and losing Saturday night doesn’t change the fact that they still played great basketball down the stretch and ended up a couple short. That doesn’t change how they played those 12 games.”


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