Slow start dooms Mavs in loss to CSU-Pueblo
If you don’t think every minute counts in a basketball game, note that Colorado Mesa University women’s coach Roger Walters didn’t even take that long Friday to call his first timeout.
Instructing his reserves to stay on the bench with only 55 seconds gone, he circled up his starting five. For 30 seconds, he let them know he wasn’t happy with the defense on CSU-Pueblo’s first two possessions, which resulted in a 3-pointer and an open layup.
“We came out flat for some reason and it’s 5-0 before we could figure out where we were at for some reason,” Walters said. “You start adding a bucket here and there in the first half when we were flat and that’s the ballgame.
“Every possession is as valuable as every other possession. I know they know that, but sometimes we act like we don’t.”
It took about five minutes before the Mavericks really got it together defensively, and that was the difference in the ThunderWolves’ 55-51 RMAC victory, extending CMU’s losing streak to three games, and four of their past five.
The Mavericks (7-6, 5-4 RMAC) extended their matchup zone more than usual to get pressure on the ball, and at times the zone had a man-to-man look. Mesa looked uncomfortable early, and failed to talk on defense, which left CSU-Pueblo shooters open too often.
“Lack of communication will do that,” forward Kelsey Sigl said. “I don’t know, you get out of you element sometimes ... You can’t have those mental lapses. At this level, we just can’t have that.”
In particular, Jennelle Branting got open looks and knocked down five 3-pointers, scoring 22 points, 15 in the first half.
CSU-Pueblo (10-2, 7-1) built a nine-point lead before Sigl brought the Mavericks back.
She hit a short turn-around jumper, got an entry pass from Tara Gehring on the low block for a bucket and then hit a reverse layup on successive trips down the floor, cutting Pueblo’s lead from 20-11 to 20-17.
Branting answered with a pair of 3-pointers around a 3 by Katrina Selsor and a bucket inside by Hanna Bowden.
Another 3 by Selsor, who finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, just before halftime cut it to 31-29.
The Mavericks finally took the lead on a 3 by Effo Baker with 10:08 to play, 39-38, but Pueblo scored five quick points and never trailed again.
Mesa made a late run after Sigl, who scored 25 points, hit a baseline jumper to cut Pueblo’s lead to 49-43 with 3:43 left.
Down 52-48, Hillary Duncan forced a turnover and the Mavericks called time with 31.5 seconds to play.
They set up a play for Sigl, who got the ball inside, but was swarmed. She tried to force the shot up and draw a foul, but the ball was deflected with 17.7 seconds left. Sigl fouled to stop the clock and Branting made one of two free throws.
Selsor grabbed the rebound and took the ball the length of the floor for a layup and was fouled, hitting the free throw to cut it to two, 53-51.
Out of timeouts, the Mavericks had to foul, and Erica Hicks made two free throws with 10 seconds left to ice it.
The Mavericks had 18 assists on 20 baskets, but got little production other than Sigl and Selsor. Amy Weitzeil scored six first-half points, but no one else had more than one basket.
The Mavs had a chance late, but Walters would like to have those first five minutes back.
“I’d like to play the way we did the last 35 minutes,” Walters said, “instead of taking the first five minutes for granted.”