Loss to T-Wolves extends Mesa losing streak to 3 games
It was a short week of preparation, but it didn’t bother the CSU-Pueblo men’s basketball team.
Even with a day to travel, the ThunderWolves came back to Grand Junction and defeated Colorado Mesa 84-67 on Thursday night at Brownson Arena.
The Mavericks (7-6, 5-4 RMAC) lost for the third consecutive game after winning four in a row and seven of eight heading into the Christmas break.
“I’m not going to come up with excuses why we didn’t play well,” CMU coach Andy Shantz said. “We either toughen up and focus to play, or you shouldn’t play college basketball. Those guys had a short week of travel and looked like they had plenty of energy. That’s something, obviously, we need to address.”
CSU-Pueblo (7-5, 5-3 RMAC) limited the Mavericks to 41 percent shooting from the floor and outrebounded Mesa 46-35. The ThunderWolves grabbed 16 offensive rebounds and had 18 second-chance points. Mesa also missed 10 free throws, shooting 58 percent from the line.
“We played a very good team. They executed their stuff very well,” Shantz said. “Every 50-50 ball they got. Combine that with poor shooting. I thought we had some good looks but had a hard time finishing for whatever reason.”
CSU-Pueblo, which blew a double-digit lead in a 79-77 nonconference loss to Mesa on Thanksgiving weekend, ended a two-game losing skid.
“We never talked about that game at all,” CSU-Pueblo coach Ralph Turner said. “We talked about our last two games we lost in the conference and didn’t play very good.
“We thought this was a great win against a well-coached team. Those guys are going to win a bunch more games. We were fortunate to come here and play well.”
Four players scored in double figures for the ThunderWolves, led by Julian Caldwell with 16 points.
Ryan Stephan led the Mavericks with 20 points, Jerry Duckworth scored 13 off the bench and Jon Orr had 12.
CSU-Pueblo got off to a good start against the Mavericks, like it did in a nonconference meeting back on Thanksgiving weekend for a 9-2 lead.
The Mavericks responded with a 10-2 run for a 12-11 lead. Stephan scored a couple of times in the post, Duckworth hit a jumper and scored a putback, and Orr scored on an offensive rebound. Orr hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored inside to give Mesa a 22-16 lead.
The ThunderWolves answered with a 13-0 run for a 29-22 lead, including a thunderous dunk from Tyrone Marshall. CSU-Pueblo led 40-35 at halftime when point guard Nate Tigner hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“It was a five-point game, and we turned it over eight or nine times,” Shantz said. “It was a two-point game when Tigner hit that shot at the buzzer, but those things happen. You’ve got to respond to it.”
CSU-Pueblo opened the second half with an 11-3 run for a 51-38 lead and never looked back.
The Mavericks cut the Pueblo lead to four points with 5:04 left, but the ThunderWolves closed the game with a 17-4 run, including three 3-pointers.
“We took care of the ball in the second half and were tougher there, but we couldn’t keep them off the offensive glass,” Shantz said. “They just beat us to the punch. You’ve got to have some pride doing it and finishing plays.”
The three-game losing streak after the holiday break is disappointing, but it’s something Shantz said a good team will overcome.
“Some years you want that break to come, some years you don’t,” Shantz said. “You come back a different team, and you’ve got to find your way a little bit, but everyone has to do that. That’s the bottom line. It’s not like it is an unfair advantage. To see that has been disappointing.”
Daniel Estes decided not to play after the break and quit the team.
Mesa hosts the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs at 7:30 tonight at Brownson Arena. The Mountain Lions are on a four-game winning streak, including a 91-66 victory over Western State on Thursday night in Gunnison.