The second night of back-to-back nights of Rocky Mountain Athletic Basketball Conference games can be tough. It is especially tough after an emotional win in the final seconds against a traditional RMAC contender.
The Colorado Mesa men’s basketball team, though, found a way to follow a 60-54 victory over Metro State on Friday night with a 84-70 victory over Chadron State on Saturday night at Brownson Arena.
“Doubleheaders are always tough,” CMU senior guard Tommy Nuno said. “Physically and mentally you have to come ready the second day. When you get an emotional win that first day, you have to bring that mentality the second day as well.”
Colorado Mesa (7-3, 3-1 RMAC) was able to build a lead and hold off the Eagles every time they mounted a rally. The Mavericks scored 24 points off turnovers, shot 48% from the floor and 88% from the free throw line in the victory.
“(The Eagles) have been really competitive; they are a really good team,” CMU coach Mike DeGeorge said. “I honestly feel like it was our best game of the year. I felt like were sound defensively and engaged. We had better flow offensively tonight the way we scored.
“We took a step. All 80 minutes this weekend we were engaged in a way. I definitely felt like we took a step in the right direction this weekend.”
Kolton Peterson led the Mavericks off the bench with 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the 3-point line. Georgie Dancer scored 16, Nuno had 14 and Jared Small added 10.
“Our teammates do a great job giving me confidence,” Peterson said.
“(Friday) I didn’t shoot the ball very good, but even when I don’t they tell me to keep shooting and give me the confidence to keep shooting it.”
Peterson’s teammates believe in the junior sharp-shooter.
“He’s the best shooter in the RMAC,” Nuno said. “We trust him every time he touches the ball. Every time he touches it we think it’s going in.”
Chadron State (2-8, 1-3 RMAC) hung with the Mavericks early in the game, taking a brief 17-16 lead with 11:14 left in the first half.
Colorado Mesa went on a 9-3 run to take a 25-20 lead. After a Chadron basket, Peterson hit his second 3-pointer of the night, then Small had a steal and breakaway dunk to give the Mavs a 33-25 lead. Peterson hit another 3-pointer later in the half to give Mesa a 10-point lead. The Mavericks led 41-35 at halftime.
The Eagles, who were finding ways to score early in the game, were struggling to score in the second half.
“The biggest thing we needed to deal with was their ball screens,” DeGeorge said. “They have really quick guards that can get in the paint. We were not quite aggressive enough with how we dealt with it initially. The guys were able to adjust. We kept getting more aggressive as the game went on and they didn’t find a solution to that. That was the key to the game.”
Chadron chipped away at Mesa’s lead in the second half, but every time the Eagles managed to get within striking distance, Mesa answered.
Peterson was often the answer. Chadron cut Mesa’s lead to three with 14:02 left when Peterson hit a 3-pointer. He hit another 3-pointer with 6:34 left for a 67-58 lead.
“(Kolton) is a great shooter,” DeGeorge said. “(Friday) night, I kind of screwed up our substitution pattern. He only got a few minutes in first half and I played him too long of a stretch in the second half. We know he’s going to hit open shots.”
Clay Verk grabbed an offensive rebound and scored, was fouled and made the bonus free throw for a 72-62 lead with 4:43 left. From there, the Mavericks made 8 of 9 free throws to seal the victory.
“We definitely took a step forward since last week,” Nuno said. “You can tell, especially defensively. We still have things to build on, but we are definitely going in the right direction.”