Richardson adds help, but Mesa falls at home
Erin Richardson knew she needed to provide a lift for the Mesa State College women’s basketball team.
With Heather Habekost out with a concussion, Richardson started in her place Sunday, scoring a career-high 23 points, but it wasn’t enough, as Colorado Christian rallied to defeat the Mavericks 81-72 in an RMAC game at Brownson Arena.
The Cougars (5-5, 1-1 RMAC) forced 24 Mesa turnovers, limited the Mavericks (3-5, 0-2 RMAC) to 37.9 percent shooting and took advantage of 31 Mesa fouls, scoring 29 points on free throws.
“There’s been a lot of games that way,” Mesa State coach Timi Brown said. “We’re not guarding off the dribble well. We’re not talking defensively, moving our feet, we’re reaching, we’re not guarding in the post. We have no inside presence right now.”
Mesa senior center Stephanie Delgado, who was averaging 13 points a game entering the weekend, was held to two points on two field goal attempts by Colorado Christian.
Even when the Mavericks made a deliberate effort to get the ball to her, the Cougars swiped the ball away.
Colorado Christian junior Abby Rosenthal rarely let Delgado touch the ball, often creating a turnover and a fast break for the Cougars. The two-time RMAC East Division player of the week was a force on the offensive end as well, leading Colorado Christian with 26 points and 15 rebounds.
“Abby is tough,” Colorado Christian coach Tim Hays said. “She did a great job underneath the basket. She’s not an over the top athlete, but she’s an amazing veteran player. She conserves when she needs to conserve. She’s always around the ball.”
Junior guard Holly Valdez added 20 points, six assists and five steals. Talmai Aguirre chipped in 16 points.
“A lot of role players beat us,” Brown said. “We’ve got to be ready to guard.”
Rosenthal and Valdez ignited a 15-3 run in the second half to give the Cougars a 67-59 lead.
Christian scored 10 of those 15 points in the run inside and when they didn’t score, they were fouled and made 5 of 8 free throws. The Cougars continued attacking the basket and made 7 of 10 foul shots down the stretch. They shot 43 free throws for the game.
“We are playing hard, but we’re not playing smart in a lot of ways,” Brown said. “It’s got to be a collective effort. People have got to show up to play every night. It’s total inconsistency.
We’re searching for answers playing different kids in different spots. At some point, you’d like to have a rotation and we can not seem to find seven, eight kids that will show up consistently. I thought we were out-toughed in the second half. I felt we were pushed around.”
Richardson helped the Mavericks get off to a good start, hitting two of four Mesa 3-pointers to build an 18-8 lead. The Fruita Monument High School graduate hit another 3-pointer to push Mesa’s lead to 23-12.
“Coach talked about being confident,” Richardson said. “I was ready and took my shots.
“It was a great opportunity. We really miss Heather, but I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
Habekost sustained a slight concussion Friday and again in practice Saturday. Brown hopes to have her back this weekend when Mesa plays at Metro State and Regis.
Mesa’s 11-point lead was its biggest as the Cougars went on a 10-0 run to get within a point.
Mesa junior Hannah Walsh, who had 10 points in her second game back from a shoulder injury, hit a jumper then Jocelyn Zarling nailed a 3-pointer. The Cougars responded by attacking the basket and getting within three points at halftime.
Richardson, who hit 5 of 8 3-point field goals in the game, hit a couple more 3-pointers in the second half but the Cougars kept coming after Mesa, taking their first lead since the first basket of the game with 14:19 left on an Aguirre 3-pointer.