A deep bank 3-pointer at the buzzer spoiled a second-half rally by Friday the Colorado Mesa men's basketball team in a 79-76 loss to No. 20 St. Edward's University in the D2 Conference Challenge in Lakewood.
"It was a new late-game situation and we didn't handle it the way we want," CMU coach Mike DeGeorge said. "We haven't been through every single scenario yet and we weren't in great position, not like we will be now because we've seen it and we'll clean it up. It was a little disappointing that he banked one in on us."
The Mavericks turned the ball over 13 times in the first half and shot only 34.7% from the field, but settled down in the second to come back from a 37-29 deficit.
"We learned a lot as the half went on. We felt good going into halftime, we could have been down 25," DeGeorge said. "We defended their actions way better. We had a great week of practice and made tremendous strides defensively and that speaks volumes of what we can be defensively. We have a chance to be really good."
Jared Small put the Mavericks up 67-65 on a crossover in the lane with less than five minutes, and neither team led by more than three points the rest of the way.
A 3-pointer by Jess Spivey put CMU up 72-71 with 2:26 remaining and Tommy Nuno hit four free throws in the final two minutes, the final two with 53 seconds remaining to put the Mavs up 76-74.
After St. Edward's Ashton Spears went inside for a bucket to tie it with 33 seconds to go, the Mavericks got Nuno a shot in the lane, but it rimmed out. The battle for the rebound went off the Mavs and after checking the video, the officials put three seconds on the clock instead of the 1.5 that showed initially.
That gave the Hilltoppers just enough time to get the ball to Spears well beyond the 3-point line on the left wing. His shot just before the horn hit off the glass and banked in for the winner. It was one of a dozen 3-pointers the Hilltoppers made.
Michael Skinner led the Mavericks, who play Dallas Baptist this morning, with 23 points, Nuno had 20 and Georgie Dancer 10 in his debut. After committing five turnovers in the first half, Dancer had only one in the second and had four assists.
"The problems we had are fixable problems," DeGeorge said. "It's frustrating because a win would have put us in great position (with an in-region win against a ranked opponent), but we're very excited about this group."
The Mavericks were eager to get back on the court, and showed it in a runaway 87-49 victory over Cameron University (Oklahoma) in the first game of the Tarleton State Texan Tipoff Classic in Stephenville, Texas.
Mesa's defense clamped down on the Aggies, who shot only 28.6% from the field and didn't make a 3-pointer.
A 21-6 first-quarter lead put the Mavericks in control, and they didn't let up.
"They were really focused, had a lot of energy," CMU coach Taylor Wagner said. "It was one of those things, they wanted to get out there and they were really hungry. It was fun to see them have that type of energy early.
"(Defensively) we did a good job. I felt like we took (Cameron) out of a lot of things they wanted to run and were pretty disciplined. It was a good first quarter."
Mesa led the entire way, with Kylyn Rigsby getting them started on both ends of the floor.
"Ky did a great job on their leading scorer from last year (Maighan Hedge), really shut her down and everybody fed off that defense she was playing," Wagner said. "Offensively when she gets going, she takes it to another level."
Hedge, who averaged 15 points a game last season, finished with six, making only two of 11 attempts from the field.
Rigsby was one of four Mavericks in double figures, with 14.
Daniella Turner, who is backing up Sydni Brandon at point guard, had a career-high 20 points. She also got some time in as a wing with Brandon on the floor running the point.
"We have a lot of stuff in our playbook that is for a point guard and she does a good job with some of those plays," Wagner said. "She does a good job finishing. She looks good with the ball in her hands. She's a smooth player and hopefully she continues to do that for us."
The Mavericks shot 51.9% from the field and got 17 points from junior forward Kelsey Siemons, including three 3-pointers, and 10 from Brandon.
Getting out to a big lead allowed Wagner to go to the bench early, with nine players getting time in the first quarter with no dropoff in intensity.
"I feel like we have enough girls that we can get after it and wear teams down," Wagner said. "It's still a work in progress and kids here and there have different deficiencies. When it all comes together and individuals improve on things they're struggling with, I think we'll be really good."