The ninth-ranked Colorado Mesa men’s basketball team was pushed several times in the second half by Colorado Christian, but remained undefeated with a 78-67 victory, setting up Friday’s showdown with top-ranked Colorado Mines at Brownson Arena.
Led by yet another balanced attack, the difference came at the free-throw line.
Colorado Mesa (9-0, 9-0 RMAC) committed only eight fouls and put the Cougars (1-9, 1-9) on the line only four times (they made three), all in the second half.
Conversely, CMU made 21 of 25 free throws, allowing the Mavericks to stay in control even when the Cougars tried to rally.
“I can’t tell you how much better (Colorado Christian) is; they’re 40 points better,” CMU coach Mike DeGeorge said of the team the Mavericks beat by 20 on the opening weekend. Colorado Christian added five mid-year transfers.
“That’s one of our better wins. It was a very easy game to get rattled in. The pace of their offense, every time we had a breakdown (defensively) they made a shot. They’ve really improved.”
Mesa led by five at the half and a built an 11-point lead with 6½ minutes remaining in the second half. Colorado Christian cut it to six, 62-56, with 5:28 to play on a three-point play, but Jared Small answered with a deep 3-pointer from the wing and Georgie Dancer and Ethan Menzies added free throws to push the lead back to 10.
Dancer and Menzies scored 17 points each, Mac Riniker added 13 and Reece Johnson nine for CMU, which shot 48%.
That the Mavericks didn’t look too far ahead to playing the Orediggers is a testament to their maturity, DeGeorge said.
“It’ll be a fun weekend and it’ll be good to be home,” he said. “It’ll be good to see where we stack up with Mines; it’s a fun challenge ahead, but we have two games this weekend and the challenge will be to get them to understand that every game counts the same and we have to be ready to get two.”
Taylor Wagner was pretty sure what kind of performance he’d get from the Colorado Mesa women’s basketball team after they were upset Friday by Metro State.
“I could tell from shootaround that the girls were pretty disappointed, but they were going to come out and play a little bit harder,” the CMU coach said Saturday night after a 67-39 victory at Colorado Christian.
A renewed defensive effort allowed the Cougars to score only 15 points in the first half — CMU scored that many in the second quarter — and with 2½ minutes to play in the third quarter, Colorado Christian had scored only 20 points.
Three starters reached double figures, with Kelsey Siemons, who didn’t score Friday night, leading the way with 17. She hit four 3-pointers, all in the second half, when CMU outscored the Cougars (2-6, 2-6 RMAC) 41-24.
Sierra McNicol scored 15 points and Kylyn Rigsby 13. Siemons and Rigsby finished with double-doubles, grabbing 11 and 10 rebounds, respectively.
The Mavericks (8-2, 8-2) were without their two leading scorers, injured point guards Dani Turner and Natalie Bartle, so freshman Sophie Hadad ran the point all weekend. She had six points, four rebounds and one assist Saturday, and ended the weekend with only three turnovers.
“Sophie Hadad played great for us,” Wagner said. “That’s a tough position to learn 100 plays in three days, and she really stepped up. The crazy thing is, the week before (against Black Hills State) she didn’t get in, didn’t play, but she didn’t hang her head and came back this week and played great.”
With the defense clamping down, the offense soared, shooting nearly 48% — 72.7% in the third quarter and 62.5% in the fourth.
“It can’t be win one and lose one from here on out,” Wagner said. “We’ve got to do the job all weekend long and be ready.”