It’s been an excellent start to the season for the Colorado Mesa University’s women’s basketball team as they have surged to an 8-0 record. They added to that win total by notching wins against Western State University (WSU) by a final score of 69-46, and defeating Westminster University (WU) 83-52.

In their first conference game of the season, the Mavericks had their big three contribute heavily against Western State. Jaylyn Duran led the way with 21 points on 7-12 shooting. She was 4-6 from three-point range. Ma’ata Epenisa finished with 18 points of her own to go along with 9 rebounds, and Erin Reichle had 14 points and 7 assists.

Defense was the story for CMU once again. They limited their opponents under 50 points for the sixth straight game. Western State had trouble finding any offensive momentum from the floor, shooting 36 percent (16-44) for the game.  

Turnovers were Western State’s undoing. They committed 21 turnovers and allowed the Mavericks to score 30 points off those turnovers. A ferocious team like CMU will make opponents pay for costly turnovers.

After a back and forth first quarter that saw the Mountaineers take a 15-14 lead, it was CMU who played the best in the second quarter. They outscored their opponent 21-8 in the quarter and had a 12-0 run to finish the half.

The Mavericks continued their strong play in the second half, where they outscored the Mountaineers 34-23. They were much more active at the free throw line in the second half, converting 11-13 from the line after hitting zero free throws in the first half.

Ryne Dutcher | The Criterion

Karina Brandon added nine rebounds, and Sydni Brandon had an effective game. She tallied five points, five steals, four assists, two rebounds and a block. The Mavericks shot an effective 46 percent (25-54), with their largest lead at 24 in the fourth quarter.

Against Westminster, the team wasted no time getting points on the board. They started the game on a 12-2 run, highlighted by four straight three-pointers. Their lead soon climbed up to 19-2 after a three from Karina. The Mavericks pushed the tempo every chance they could, utilizing the fast break to create outside opportunities.

With a steady lead, the Mavericks began to slow down and settle into their offense. Their ball movement and screens were giving them wide open looks throughout the first half.

Colorado Mesa was led by Reichle, who finished with a game-high 15 points on 5-8 shooting. Karina and Kelli Van Tassel followed with 13 points apiece. The three combined for 10 of the team’s 13 three-point field goals.

“We knew that they might do the triangle and two on Jay and Erin, so we knew that we would probably be open, so just be ready to step up,” Van Tassel said.

They did exactly that as the Mavericks shot a robust 55 percent (33-59) from the floor, and 54 percent (13-24) from beyond the arc. Mesa did most of their damage in the first half, shooting 66 percent from the floor, and 64 percent from three. The extremely efficient shooting allowed them to go into halftime with a commanding 46-27 lead.

The Mavericks assisted on 21 of their 33 field goals, displaying a passing frenzy that came from patience and ball movement. Mesa made it a goal to get Van Tassel involved as much as possible from beyond the arc due to her efficient shooting.

“That’s what Kelli needs to do. She can live off of everybody else, and step out there and hit threes all day for us,” Head coach Taylor Wagner said.

Mesa had their biggest lead in the fourth quarter, leading by 42 with 4:41 remaining in the game. The team has held their opponents under 50 points in six of their past seven games.

The Mavericks will have their first conference road trip as they head to Durango to face off against Fort Lewis College on Dec. 8. They head to Alamosa the following day to play Adams State University. Both games are set for a 5:30 p.m. start time.

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Josue Perez is a junior mass communication student. He is from Montrose, Colorado. He began writing on staff for The Criterion in the fall of 2017 and will be assistant sports editor in the spring. He has a passion for sports and wishes to pursue a career in sports journalism.

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