Second chances: Mavs use hot shooting in 2nd half to rally for win
Until he studies the game film, Jim Heaps can’t tell you how the Mesa State College men’s basketball team won Friday night’s game against Central Methodist (Mo.) University.
Even after he studies the film, he might be able to tell you how, but maybe not why, the Mavericks came out with an 81-77 victory in the opening round of the Clarion Inn Thanksgiving Tip-off at Brownson Arena.
“It’s one of those, ask me how we won, and I have no clue whatsoever other than we hung around long enough and hit enough free throws to win,” Heaps said. “How we did it, I’m not sure yet.”
Better shooting, better defense, a couple of breaks here and there and a big dose of Mike Dominguez down the stretch are some of the “hows.”
“Mike played great down the stretch,” Heaps said of the 6-foot-3 senior guard. “That’s what he’s capable of doing.”
Obviously, the altitude difference between central Missouri and western Colorado didn’t bother the Eagles, who shot 68 percent from the field in the first half and 62 percent overall.
“I’ve never seen a team collectively shoot ... I mean, 62 percent? We’ve had teams shoot like that against us, but it’s two post players we can’t match up with hitting everything. This was all the way up and down the lineup,” Heaps said.
About the time the Eagles cooled off to 57.7-percent shooting, though, the Mavericks got untracked on both ends of the floor. They put on a shooting exhibition themselves, making 17 of 22 shots (77.3 percent) in the second half.
“Wow,” Dominguez said, his eyes widening. “I’m not sure how many assists we had, but we felt better offensively. We got into a rhythm. They came out and hit shots and punched us in the mouth a little bit and that was the first time we’ve been down like that.”
In the first half, the Mavericks were passing the ball around the perimeter and shooting jump shots.
In the second half, they were cutting through the lane without the ball, coming hard off screens and taking high-percentage shots, even from the perimeter.
It translated into 13 assists on 17 baskets in the second half (21 assists on 28 baskets overall) and a second-half rebounding margin of 14-5.
Central Methodist’s Matt Sherman, the coach’s son who considered playing at Mesa State before deciding to stay home, hit a pair of 3s right off the bat and then drove the lane for an 8-2 lead despite the defensive efforts of Jase Herl.
“He was in my face,” said Herl, the Mavs’ best defender. “They didn’t miss much and we weren’t very aggressive defensively. We were lucky to be down nine (at halftime). It could have been a lot worse.”
A 7-2 run in the final two minutes allowed the Mavericks to stay close enough at halftime, 36-27.
Bit by bit, Mesa State got back in the game, and with 10:42 to play, Ryan Mortensen hit a 3 from the corner off an assist from Dominguez, who had eight to go with his game-high 20 points and eight rebounds.
That gave Mesa State its first lead of the game, 54-53.
From there, the two teams tried to out-execute one another. Mesa State got just enough of a lead when Dominguez drove and dished to Russell Gregory for a layup, got a defensive rebound and hit both ends of a one-and-one on the other end for a 69-66 lead.
Michael Bear, who had 14 points, tipped in a miss with 3:45 to play and the Mavericks (3-0) hit 8 of 10 free throws in the final 1:16.
The Mavericks play 12th-ranked Metro State at 7 tonight.
“I told the guys, it’s a total shift now,” Heaps said. “Tonight was a lot of screens, pick the picker, overloads and that kind of thing. Metro lines up and says ‘we’re going to come at you and see if you can stop us.’ ‘’
Metro State 87, CSU-Pueblo 72: Reggie Evans scored 37 points and Brian Minor had 20 to lead the Roadrunners, who came back from an early 10-point deficit.
Every basket Metro State made in the second half came in the paint, as the Roadrunners attacked the basket relentlessly. They took only six shots outside the paint in the second half.
Jonathan Morse and Donte Nicholas had 14 points each for Metro.
CSU-Pueblo, which played tough half-court defense and caused six early turnovers to take a 14-4 lead, got 18 points from Roman Van Allen, 16 from Chris Busch, 11 from Marc Williams and 10 from Donell Wells.
Metro went on a 24-8 first-half run to turn that deficit into a 28-18 lead.
The ThunderWolves play Central Methodist at 5 today.