San Antonio or bust
CMU faces Midwestern State for trip to Elite Eight
Without a doubt, the two best teams in the South Central Region are still standing.
Top-seeded Colorado Mesa University (30-1) plays second-seeded Midwestern State University (26-5) at 7 tonight for the right to advance to the women’s NCAA Division II Elite Eight in San Antonio. CMU has dubbed the game “Whiteout Night,” asking fans to wear white to support the Mavericks.
The similarities between the teams start with the uniform colors, but they sure don’t end there. The Mavericks’ shade of maroon leans more toward cardinal, the Mustangs’ a bit deeper, with both using athletic gold as an accent color.
Both are playing in their first regional championship, and both won their first Division II regional playoff game Friday.
They’re high-scoring teams, Mesa averaging 73.7 points per game, Midwestern State 71.2. The Mavericks win by an average of 20.4 points per game, the Mustangs 9.4. They take high-percentage shots and knock them down, CMU shooting 45.2 percent from the field, Midwestern 41.8 percent.
Defense? Yeah, they both take pride in that. Opponents manage to shoot only 34.6 percent against the Mavs, 53.3 points a night; Midwestern opponents shoot 38 percent and score 61.8 points per game.
And both teams are impressed with the other.
“Great team,” CMU coach Taylor Wagner said of Midwestern State. “We’re gonna have to play a lot better. They play up and down (the floor). They’re going to press and trap and they switch up defenses, so we’re going to have to be ready for anything.”
And Midwestern State coach Noel Johnson is equally wary of the Mavericks.
“Mesa is a very disciplined, hard-playing, hard-nosed team,” she said.
Their styles of play are a bit different, with the Mustangs picking up pressure full-court and trapping ballhandlers to fuel their up-tempo offense. Mesa relies on its half-court man-to-man defense to get stops and trigger its transition game, but it will jump in a trap on occasion.
And you want to talk offensive weapons?
Andrea Carter, a 5-foot-10 sophomore forward, averages a double-double, 13.3 points and 10.5 rebounds. Kirsti Degelia is a 1,000-point scorer at Midwestern, scoring 16.3 points per game, and is the Mustangs’ main 3-point threat, hitting 41, including five in their semifinal win over Metro State.
Colorado Mesa gets 18.4 points and 6.9 rebounds a game from Kelsey Sigl, 14.9 points and 8.2 rebounds from Katrina Selsor and 12.7 points a game from Sharaya Selsor. Sigl and Katrina Selsor each eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in their three years at Mesa.
Rebounding will be key if the Mavericks want to extend their dream season. Despite beating Fort Lewis by 26 points in the quarterfinals, CMU was outrebounded by four. Ditto in a 10-point semifinal victory against Texas-Permian Basin, a number that needs to change against Midwestern, Wagner said.
Both coaches were happy to have Sunday off other than short practices to prepare for tonight.
The Mavericks are used to playing back-to-back nights, as is the custom in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. The Lone Star Conference schedule has teams playing Wednesdays and Saturdays, but the conference tournament final four was a Friday-Saturday setup.
“That’s part of being in the tournament,” Johnson said. “You don’t have time to overthink things. You’ve got time to quickly prepare and focus pretty quick and put it into action.”
That means looking at ways to counteract what their opponent does, but mainly, fine-tuning their own games for the biggest game of the season.
“The main thing for us is we’ve got to focus on ourselves,” Wagner said. “I think we can improve on every area from (Saturday) going into Monday, and that’s a good thing. I like our chances.”
Midwestern State, ranked No. 25 in the nation, is on an eight-game winning streak.
Fourth-ranked Colorado Mesa has won 12 straight and is 18-0 at Brownson Arena this season, with one final game on its home court.
“I really don’t know if there’s a word that can describe it,” Katrina Selsor said of the Mavericks’ 30-win season, the best in school history. “It’s been a great year overall, and this is just icing on the cake, I guess you could say.
“We’re just really excited to be here and have our fans come out and support us. We’re ready to get another win on our home floor.”