The Mines men’s basketball team entered the weekend dropping three of their last four games, looking to rebound and head in a new direction. After pulling away from UCCS on Friday night, the Orediggers were looking to build on their momentum Saturday against CSU-Pueblo during a “White-Out” hosted by SAAC and WAM.
And build on their momentum they did, holding off the Thunderwolves 74-71 to earn their tenth win of the season and their third in the past four games.
The Orediggers earned the win, but unlike their victory the night before, they did not avoid any drama in this one. Mines built an eight point advantage late in the game at 69-61 before staving off a furious Thunderwolf rally that fell just short as a desperation three point attempt clanged off the rim at the buzzer.
Leading 69-61 with three minutes remaining, CSU-Pueblo would score the next eight points in a furious 49 second barrage to even the contest. But on the next possession, as they had done all night, the Orediggers found center Trevor Wages inside for a momentum-changing jump shot to end the run and take the lead for good. After a missed three by the Thunderwolves, Wages would convert on one of two free throws to push the lead to 72-69.
WIth 16 seconds left, CSU-Pueblo’s Nathan Tigner stripped the ball from the Orediggers and coasted in for the layup to close the gap to 72-71. Junior Luke Meisch then connected on two free throws and with 12 seconds left. CSU-Pueblo had one last chance to send the game to overtime, but Ryan Arel’s contested three-pointer pell short at the buzzer.
For the Orediggers, it was yet another close win. In their 15 games this season, Mines is now 7-1 in games decided by five points or less. Of their seven conference victories, six have come by five points or less. In Friday night’s victory over UCCS, Mines won by 16 points. In their other six RMAC wins, they have won by just 21 points combined. These late-game heroics are not what the the Orediggers had planned on, and they may give a head coach nightmares, but for now, they have pushed Mines into the top tier of teams in the RMAC standings.
For Mines, the game was decided in the paint, as Wages and Meisch combined for 49 of Mines 73 points, but another deciding factor lay at the free throw line, where the Orediggers outscored the Thunderwolves 19-5, taking nearly 20 more attempts. This disparity helped the Orediggers to overcome a 13-2 deficit in bench scoring.
In the win, Wages led all scorers with 27 points, three shy of his career high, and added three steals and three blocks. Meisch added 22 points including a perfect 7-7 from the free throw line, while Nico Mucci finished with 10 points and Brian Muller had nine.
The victory for the Orediggers pushes Mines to 10-5 overall and 7-4 in RMAC play. CSU-Pueblo falls to 6-11 overall and 5-6 in the RMAC. After closing out their four game homestand with a win, Mines heads on the road for six of their next eight games, starting at Adams St at 8 pm January 25.