The versatility and depth on the Colorado Mesa men's basketball team was never more evident than it was during the Holiday Inn-Airport Thanksgiving Classic.
Friday night, the offense flowed through Michael Skinner.
Saturday, Skinner didn't even take a shot until Tommy Nuno threw him an alley-oop with 5:07 to play in the game.
"Skinner always has a big role even if he's not scoring, he's always doing stuff for us on defense, in transition," Nuno said. "He's never having a bad game. He's getting someone open. Even if he's not scoring, he's impacting the game."
Instead four others finished in double figures in the Mavericks' 95-64 victory over Montana Western. Nuno scored 21 and Georgie Dancer had 19, both scoring on drives to the rim and hitting shots from the perimeter. Center Clay Verk attacked the basket — and even hit a 3-pointer — for his 16 points, and Kolton Peterson added 11 points off the bench.
"We have some depth and we've just got to get some consistency," CMU coach Mike DeGeorge said. "We'll see how we can pull that together. It's just a process. As much as you want it to come together right away, it's hard to be patient sometimes."
Skinner's role Saturday night was guarding James Jones, and he did his job, allowing the Bulldogs' top scorer to shoot only 5 of 14 from the field and finish with 10 points.
"He was a huge factor in that game. (Jones) is really good and he held him to 5-of-14 shooting," DeGeorge said of Skinner's defense. "The great thing about it is he's totally fine with playing whatever the team needs."
Despite the lopsided score, it was anybody's game at halftime, with the Mavericks (4-2) up only 36-33. They came out with a different lineup in the second half, looking for a spark.
"We sent a message to our team at halftime that we weren't really happy with their effort so we tried to pick five guys we thought would compete and set the tone of the second half and that group came in and did a good job," DeGeorge said.
The Bulldogs (5-4) went inside to Brian Howell, who finished with 17 points, so the Mavs brought Verk back into the game to offset the inside attack.
"I was trying to be more aggressive tonight," Verk said. "I wasn't really aggressive last night so I had a mindset to be aggressive and attack the matchup I had."
After Nuno hit one of his three 3-pointers, a point of emphasis for him during the offseason, the Mavericks were up eight with 11:34 to play and it stayed in that range for about three minutes.
Then Dancer, with the Montana Western bench hollering "shooter!" did just that, burying a 3 from the top of the key and putting the Mavs up 65-53. They scored the next seven points to build the lead to 19 with 6:27 to play.
Three minutes later, it was a 31-point lead, 88-57.
"It all happened really fast," Verk said. "We look up at the scoreboard and we're up 20. It started with our defense. We showed more effort on defense and once that got going it went into our offense."
Included in that 13-2 outburst was a steal and coast-to-coast layup by Peterson and the alley-oop from Nuno to Skinner, who laid the ball in off the glass for an 80-55 lead.
Ethan Menzies added a jumper in the lane and Peterson buried a 3 in transition. Nuno added another 3 for an 88-57 lead.
How quickly the Mavericks built the lead even caught DeGeorge off guard. He was trying to decide how to manage minutes to keep Nuno out of foul trouble and have the right lineup on the floor down the stretch. Instead, he cleared the bench after Montana Western called timeout after Nuno's 3.
Mesa's bench contributed 35 points, with Menzies and David Rico scoring nine each to go with Peterson's 11.
"He can really guard his position and he's a tremendous shooter and he's still trying to find his comfort level on the floor," DeGeorge said of Rico. "It was good to see Ethan Menzies and him get some comfort level in the second half."
Only a few months ago, Nuno said, the Mavericks didn't know each other at all. Every week they get more and more comfortable with each other, and it's showing, Verk said.
"We have a lot of pieces. Once we have that chemistry and all blend together, we're going to be deadly," Verk said.
Western Colorado 86, Missouri Western 82: Jackson Ehrlin scored with 23 seconds left to break an 82-82 tie, then blocked a 3-pointer in the corner with five seconds left to preserve the Mountaineers' victory.
Ehrlin scored a career-high 30 points, going 11 of 16 from the field and adding seven free throws. Cole Sienknecht added 20 points, including a pair of free throws with four seconds remaining to seal the win for Western (3-3).
Tyus Millhollin hit five 3-pointers for Missouri Western (3-5) and finished with 31 points, and Tyrell Carroll added 28.