Sports

CSU-Pueblo men travel to Western Slope for rubber match

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Colorado State University-Pueblo will face a familiar foe in the first-round of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shootout. 

The ThunderWolves will travel to Grand Junction, Colo., on Tuesday where they will play Mesa State.

“We’re just going to compete and see what happens in 40 minutes,” CSU-Pueblo coach Pat Eberhart said. 

The teams locked horns Saturday night at Massari Arena, with the ThunderWolves coming out on top 65-60. The victory, combined with Western State’s loss to New Mexico Highlands, pushed the ThunderWolves into a fifth-place RMAC finish. 

CSU-Pueblo won its last three games, the longest winning streak of the season. 

“I feel that right now we’re heading in the right direction, and we’re pretty confident. Whoever we play better watch out for us,” said CSU-Pueblo forward Imari Thomas after Saturday night’s victory.

Both contests between the two schools have come down to the last-minute. Mesa State won the first matchup 65-61 on Jan. 22. CSU-Pueblo held a 59-51 lead late in the second half, but the Mavericks closed the game on a 14-2 run to secure the victory. 

“We got up to a late lead and we couldn’t convert free throws or make plays and they could and won the game,” Eberhart said.

The ThunderWolves make their return to postseason play after missing the 2008 RMAC Shootout following a disappointing 10-17 campaign. 

CSU-Pueblo lost in its last appearance in the RMAC Shootout 91-74 to Nebraska-Kearney in the 2007 quarterfinals. 

Mesa State is led by sharp-shooting guard Ryan Mathews. He averages 17.2 points per game and made 53 of 136 3-point attempts. Mathews dropped 18 points on the ThunderWolves in the Mavericks’ victory over CSU-Pueblo, but he was shut down last night scoring only six points on 3 of 9 field goals. 

CSU-Pueblo must contain Mesa State guard Jase Herl as well.

The Dodge City Community College transfer scored 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the teams’ Jan. 23 contest. Herl recorded a double-double Saturday night with 16 points and 10 rebounds. In the two games he shot 18-for-23 from the free throw line. 

The winner of Tuesday night’s game will advance to the RMAC Shootout semifinals on Friday at the State Fairgrounds Events Center where it will face either first-place Metro State or University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.