Blazing hot 3-point shooting was the theme for the Colorado Mesa University men’s basketball team all night Saturday. But it was the performance between the under-12 and under-8 media timeouts in the second half that was especially shocking to the visiting Skyhawks.
Behind its clinical long-range shooting, the Mavericks went on a 21-5 run and turned a 64-62 deficit into an 83-69 lead with 7 minutes, 36 seconds to play inside Brownson Arena in Grand Junction. At that point, the Mavericks had shot 16-of-20 from 3-point range and an astounding 66% shooting overall from the field.
Fort Lewis College (11-6, 5-6 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) somehow managed to stay in the game over the next couple of minutes with its own solid offensive play, but the Mavericks (12-5, 8-3 RMAC) could not be stopped and would go on to win 105-91.
It was the 11th consecutive home win for the Mavericks, who hadn’t lost at home since FLC last visited Feb. 22, 2019. The win for Mesa snapped a six-game losing streak to FLC.
The Mavericks finished 18-of-23 from behind the 3-point line for a school record 78.3% 3-point percentage.
“I don’t think we’re a horrid defensive team, but they made a lot of shots tonight, and a lot of the shots were open,” FLC head coach Bob Pietrack said. “They were long shots, and they made a lot of them. But we gotta be better defensively.”
Mesa was four made 3s shy of matching the RMAC record of 22 set by Western Colorado against New Mexico Highlands during the 1999-2000 season.
“I told their coach, I thought they out-executed us,” Colorado Mesa head coach Mike DeGeorge said in a postgame interview. “But when a team shoots it like that, what are you gonna do?”
The Skyhawks had controlled the first half despite an 8-of-10 performance from 3 in the first half by the Mavericks. FLC led by as many as 11 at 46-35 late in the first half. But a 10-0 run by the Mavericks before two late free throws from FLC’s Junior Garbrah got the home team within 48-45 at halftime.
Mesa would come out on a 8-0 run in the second half to take a 53-48 lead. FLC’s last lead would come at 64-62, and the game was tied at 64 at the media timeout with less than 12 minutes to play.
By the time FLC got a chance to look up at the scoreboard again with 7:36 to play, the Mavericks had taken a 83-69 lead.
Georgie Dancer and Jared Small both went 6-of-6 from 3 for Mesa. Dancer finished with 21 points, while Small had a team-high 25 on 8-of-9 shooting overall. Tommy Nuno added 23 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds for the Mavericks, as he went 10-of-15 shooting, mostly on layups.
While the Mavericks were lethal from long range, they also shot 66.1% overall from the field in the game. FLC finished 49.3% and, though the Skyhawks made 11-of-26 from 3 of their own, it wasn’t enough to keep up with the red-hot home team.
FLC got a game-high 30 points from junior forward Riley Farris. He shot 9-of-16 from the field and 3-of-7 from 3 and made 9-of-11 free throws. Logan Hokanson added a 17 points, his new FLC career high. Will Wittman finished with 13 points. Garbrah and fellow freshman Akuel Kot each finished with nine, all in the first half. Corey Seng also had a strong game with nine points, three steals and a blocked shot.
“I think we improved a lot this weekend as a basketball team,” Pietrack said. “We’re very young, and these are good learning moments for us. Sometimes you get buzz sawed on the road a bit, and there’s nothing you can do about that. There’s not a Division II team in the country gonna go on the road and beat a home team that goes 18-of-23. We hung in there, kept fighting and were prepared to play. The guys wanted to do the right thing, but it was hard to overcome shots like that.”
FLC went 1-3 on a tough four-game road trip to lose ground in the conference race. At the halfway mark of the conference schedule, FLC will look forward to getting four consecutive games at home starting a 5:30 p.m. Friday against Regis (10-7, 5-6 RMAC).
“The four home games coming up, you can circle all of them,” Pietrack said. “The tale of our season will be made in those four games. It’s not a coach putting pressure on the team, it’s just being honest. When you look at the conference standings and where we’re at, it’s very apparent we have to play well at home. We’ve lost two home games, but we’ve got two back on the road.
“There are 11 games left, six are at home. There’s a logjam of teams trying to get in the RMAC tournament. We’re a dangerous team if we get in that because we can score, we’re young and we’re only going to get better by that point in the season. We have a lot to play for, and we can’t wait to get home after this double road trip that is so difficult for all the teams. Let’s see if we can get home and blossom these next two weeks.”