When the pace of the game slowed down, it was the ThunderWolves’ offensive half-court execution which carried them to a victory.
Rome Smith led Colorado State University-Pueblo with 18 points and a career-best 12 rebounds as the ThunderWolves punctuated senior night with a 65-60 win over Mesa State College Saturday night at Massari Arena.
“Mesa is a really sound, good basketball team,” CSU-Pueblo coach Pat Eberhart said. “You have to be able to execute fundamentally down the stretch and we were able to do that.”
The win improved the ThunderWolves’ overall record to 14-13 and 11-8 in RMAC play. This marks the first point in the season the Pack has been over .500.
“Individually we can’t do it,” ThunderWolves guard Dwayne Wright said. “That’s not the type of team we are. The type of team we are is to play hard and play together.”
Mesa State had won five games in a row and 10 of their last 11 contests going into tonight’s battle with the ThunderWolves.
CSU-Pueblo forward Imari Thomas set the defensive tone early, emphatically blocking three Mesa State first half shots.
“Once I got my first block I knew I was going to be able to change every shot,” Thomas said.
It was a close matchup throughout, with CSU-Pueblo taking the biggest lead of the game at 59-50 with 2:20 left after two free throws from guard Roman Van Allen. The Mavericks fought back and closed the gap to two points on a 3-point shot from Ryan Mortensen.
ThunderWolves point guard Jordan Surratt extended the lead to 62-58 on two made free throws and Van Allen sealed the win with two makes from the charity stripe to provide the final margin.
The ThunderWolves were fueled in the first half by their hot outside shooting, knocking down 8 of 12 3-point attempts.
Surprise starter Justin Everett sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give CSU-Pueblo a 3-0 lead. Eberhart inserted his five seniors into the starting lineup.
Van Allen scored 10 points for the Pack, making two of his three 3-point attempts and was a perfect 4-of-4 from the foul line.
CSU-Pueblo extended their winning streak to a season-high three games. The ThunderWolves clinched a postseason berth last night with their last-second victory over Western State, but must wait for the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference’s tiebreaker system to determine a first-round matchup after finishing the regular season in a three-way tie for fifth-place with Colorado Christian and Western State.
“At this point it doesn’t matter who we play, we’re just going to strap up and go play,” Wright said.
CSU-Pueblo will be on the road Tuesday and a first-round victory will guarantee the ThunderWolves a spot in the RMAC Shootout semifinals on Friday at the State Fairgrounds Event Center in Pueblo.
With his lone steal of the game in the second half, Van Allen move into fourth-place on the ThunderWolves’ all-time steals list with 73. He needs 38 more steals to become the school’s all-time leader and with one season of college eligibility left, Van Allen has a realistic chance to eclipse the current record of 110 steals.