|Posted February 26, 2010|
Playoff-bound Pack flat in loss to Mesa
No. 23 Mesa State 80, CSU-Pueblo 71
GRAND JUNCTION - Though Friday's game against 23rd-ranked Mesa State was practically meaningless on the heels of the ThunderWolves clinching a playoff berth with Western New Mexico's loss last night, the taste is still sour following the Pack's 80-71 loss to the Mavericks.
A meaningless surge at the close of the game kept the Pack close in a game that was all Mesa State, mostly by virtue of a weak first half by the ThunderWolves.
CSU-Pueblo trailed 39-27 at halftime, shooting just 38.5 percent from the floor while the slick-shooting Mavericks nailed 50 percent of their first half shots.
It was more of the same in the second half as Mesa State opened up their lead to as much as 20 midway through the second half. The ThunderWolves saved face by mounting a 15-3 run at that point, getting as close as 63-54 at the 3:38 mark. But forced to foul to make up the remaining margin, Mesa State was a remarkable 17-for-24 from the free throw line in the game's final three-and-a-half minutes, icing the win.
The bright side of the Pack's night is that the loss largely didn't matter. A win Friday by New Mexico Highlands assured the ThunderWolves would be facing Mesa State again in just four days, as the Pack will face the Mavericks in the RMAC Quarterfinal for the second consective season. The only dent the Pack took was a potential bump in the NCAA Division II Central Region rankings that would've been enjoyed in the event of a win over Mesa State. CSU-Pueblo entered the week outside of the region's top ten, needing to play into the region's top eight, which would assure an at-large national tournament berth at the conlcusion of the RMAC playoffs. Such an ascension isn't likely, meaning the ThunderWolves surest ticket to the NCAA Division II Tournament is to claim the RMAC's automatic bid by winning the RMAC Shootout.
CSU-Pueblo will conclude its regular season Saturday when it travels to Western State, hoping to go into the RMAC Shootout on a high note.