VALPARAISO, Ind. — After five double-digit defeats in a row, the University of Nebraska at Omaha was able to keep a game close and rally for a victory Saturday in its final game of the Joe Cipriano Nebraska Classic.
Junior guard Justin Simmons banked in a 3-pointer with 1:11 left to give UNO (2-5) the lead and push the Mavs to a 68-66 victory over Chicago State at Valparaiso’s Athletics-Recreation Center.
The Cougars (1-5) — a member of the five-team Great West Conference — had built a five-point advantage with under five minutes remaining. Simmons’ 3-pointer gave UNO a 65-64 lead. Two Mav free throws made it 67-64, and Chicago State’s Matt Ross missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer with 13 seconds left. A free throw by Caleb Steffensmeier pushed the lead to four with five seconds remaining.
Trailing 24-22 midway through the first half after a 3-pointer by Chicago State’s Greg Tucker, UNO started a 16-9 run over the final seven minutes. The spurt gave the Mavericks a five-point halftime lead.
However, the 38-33 lead for UNO did not last long as the Cougars sprinted out of the break with a 13-2 run. During that stretch, Ross scored five points as Chicago State forced four turnovers over five-plus minutes — one more turnover than the Mavericks had in the first half.
UNO was able to rally with strong play from Simmons and Alex Phillips. Simmons had 17 points, four rebounds, two steals and an assist. Phillips matched him with 17 points and four rebounds.
Steffensmeier chipped in 11 points. Marcus Tyus led UNO with six rebounds, and John Karhoff added a team-high five assists.
The Mavs shot 49 percent from the field and 73 percent from the foul line. They outshot the Cougars 16-5 at the free-throw line.
Tucker and Jeremy Robinson led Chicago State with 14 points each. Robinson also pulled in a game-high 11 boards.
The Mavs return to action at 7 p.m. Thursday at North Dakota State.