Survive and advance
CMU men, women open RMAC Shootout tonight
A lot of shooting and some situational work was the order of the day Monday for the Colorado Mesa University basketball teams.
Usually a day off during the season, the Mavericks went through one-hour workouts at Brownson Arena. Then the men boarded a bus for Pueblo, while the women headed home, all with one thing on their minds — survive and advance.
“This game we have nothing to lose. Just lay it on the line and go out and do our thing, leave it on the court,” Paul Walter said of the men’s team, which plays at CSU-Pueblo at 7 tonight in the quarterfinals of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shootout.
“I feel like it’s less pressure. I know it’s a lose-and-out game, but when you’ve got nothing to lose, you can go out and give it your all, so hopefully we can go do that.”
Things are a little bit different for the top-seeded women’s team, which hosts Regis University at 7 tonight at Brownson Arena. As the top-ranked team in the South Central Region, the Mavericks (25-1) are all but assured a spot in the national playoffs.
“They know what they want to accomplish, where they want to go,” women’s coach Taylor Wagner said. “Just winning the regular-season conference title isn’t quite enough.”
The highest-seeded men’s and women’s team remaining after tonight’s quarterfinals will host their respective final four.
The women beat Regis at Brownson 74-58 in their only meeting this season, allowing the Rangers (10-16) to shoot 34 percent from the field and only 11 percent from the 3-point line. For the season, Regis is shooting 29 percent from long-range, 39 percent overall, and averages 63.3 points a game, 0.1 point more than it allows.
The Mavericks outscore their opponents by a little more than 21 points a game (74.1 to 52.9), shooting nearly 45 percent from the field, 35 percent from the 3-point line.
“They’re a dangerous team,” Wagner said of the Rangers. “They’ve got two girls (Tae’lor Purdy and Sarah Feeney) who can go off for 20 points; they’re great offensive players. They’re a scrappy team, so they’re a dangerous team. Hopefully we’re not looking at Friday or Saturday. We’ve got to take care of business.”
Regis has used a variety of lineups and switches defenses from man to zone, so the Mavs are preparing for everything. Forward Kelsey Sigl leads the RMAC in scoring at 18.7 points a game. Katrina Selsor adds 14.8 and Sharaya Selsor 12.7.
“When we play our game and our tempo and take care of the basketball, things seem to work out for us,” Wagner said. “I think that’ll be something we’re going to focus on, ourselves, and come out ready to go.”
Junior guard Christen Lopez, who transferred to Mesa from Western Nebraska Community College, but is from West Jordan, Utah, can’t wait for her first RMAC tournament.
“I’ve never been on a team where we’ve had so many talented people,” she said. “We need to continue to play the game we’ve been playing. We don’t want another loss on our record. It didn’t feel good the first time, and we don’t want it to happen again. We’ll take it each game; we’re not going to look past Regis. We’ll do what we need to to advance.”
The Mesa men (17-9) need to win the RMAC Shootout to advance to the regional tournament after falling out of the South Central rankings last week.
But, the Mavs enjoy playing on the road and were playing some of their best basketball in January when they beat the ThunderWolves 78-61 at Massari Arena.
“I just think we need to relax a little bit,” Walter said. “We’re real tense on offense. We don’t have the fluidity that we’ve had on offense, we’re second-guessing ourselves sometimes out there. We’re just tense, stiff on offense.
“We’ve all talked about it, and we’re all on the same page. We just need to get that connection back.”
The ThunderWolves (15-13) are led by junior forward Matt Rosenbaum, who averages 13.1 points a game, and senior guard Arden Dennis, at 12 points a game, and much like the Mavericks, they have a balanced attack. Mesa counters with Colton Burgon (15.3 points per game), Jeff Hart (15.0) and Mike Melillo (10.9).
Like Walter, Heaps said he thinks the Mavericks will relax tonight.
“This team is capable of beating any team we’re faced with, at home or on the road, and we’re perfectly capable of losing to any team we’re faced with, home or on the road,” Heaps said. “But we do have the pieces in place to make a run.”