Walters has Mavs focused on keeping possession
A coach is never quite sure how a team will handle close losses on back-to-back days.
Colorado Mesa University women’s basketball coach Roger Walters found out Monday morning.
Only about 12 hours after arriving in Grand Junction from a 16-hour bus trip to northern California, the Mavericks showed up at practice at 8 a.m. Monday, ready to go.
“Coach was saying we can either just drop down and pout and cry about it or we can pick ourselves up and come back,” senior center Amy Weitzeil said. “We might as well learn from this and get stronger. You can always get better.”
A film session showed the Mavericks (0-2) what they already knew.
“No more turnovers,” Weitzeil said.
Mesa turned the ball over 29 times in the season opener against Cal State-Chico, a 62-59 loss.
“People called it a fluke, but we proved it on the second night,” Walters deadpanned Tuesday, referring to the Mavs’ 29 turnovers against Sonoma State on Saturday afternoon, a 55-54 overtime loss.
Walters preaches valuing the basketball. And in those two losses, the Mavericks saw firsthand what he means when he tells them that every possession counts. In both losses, Mesa had the ball with a chance to put the game away but in both cases, lost control of the ball.
“We’re 18 seconds away from being 2-0; we have to do a better job finishing,” Walters said. “Watching film, the thing of it is, it wasn’t the last 18 seconds of the games. You’ve got to respect every possession. When you turn it over 29 times, that’s not what I’m referring to about respecting possessions.”
He knows the Mavs will have to respect possessions this weekend in the Clarion Inn Thanksgiving Tip-Off Classic at Brownson Arena.
Colorado Mesa faces Tarleton State (Texas) University at 5 p.m. Friday at Brownson Arena. The TexAnns (2-3) opened the season No. 20 in the USA Today/ESPN Division II coaches’ preseason poll, but after dropping their first two games, fell out of the rankings this week.
Walters knows the TexAnns, who won 25 games last season, will present plenty of challenges. He hadn’t watched film of Tarleton as of Tuesday morning, but it was on his to-do list.
“I’m still concerned with us, but I know they’re going to be extremely athletic and well-coached,” he said. “We’ve got to do what we do and improve with every day.”
In the 1 p.m. game Friday, CU-Colorado Springs plays Oklahoma Panhandle State. Saturday, UCCS faces Tarleton at 1 p.m. and the Mavs play Panhandle at 5.
Turnovers and missed free throws aside, Walters is encouraged by the improvement the Mavericks have shown from last season.
Kelsey Sigl is averaging 23.5 points a game and Tara Gehring 10, with Hillary Duncan adding 8.5 off the bench. Walters likes the rotation of Gehring, a good outside shooter, and Duncan, who can go inside and outside, on the wing, and redshirt freshman forward Leanndra Gilbert gave the Mavs some good minutes, averaging 5.5 points a game.
Katrina Selsor and Sigl are leading the rebounding effort with 6 per game.
“I thought we played pretty well Friday, don’t you, Mary?” Walters asked assistant coach Mary Doane.
“Yeah, if we make a few free throws and hold onto the ball a couple more times, we’ve got a win against a pretty good team,” she said.
The Mavericks, who shot 75 percent from the free-throw line last season, made only 56 percent last week. The glaring statistic is that they got to the line 41 times on the road — their opponents shot only 25 free throws combined, but made 22. Mesa made 23.
Walters scheduled the trip to California and got Tarleton on the schedule for one reason — to challenge his club, which returns the majority of the lineup from last season.
“I knew when we made the schedule it was going to be tough, but we wanted to challenge ourselves early and that’s what we’ve done,” he said. “With those challenges come setbacks here and there, but that’s OK, as long as we learn from it.”