Just a couple of tough ones left.
The end of UNO’s 10-game road trip is around the corner. The Mavericks have staggered lately, with big losses at North Dakota State (by 44 points), South Dakota State (down 31 in the first half) and Wisconsin (by 46).
Next up, Sunday at Iowa State.
“To this point, this is the best team we’ve played,” University of Nebraska at Omaha coach Derrin Hansen said.
At least this time the Mavs, who still have a Dec. 15 date at Denver before playing their first home game since Nov. 11, have had time to work on some things in practice.
UNO got a bit out of character and lost some of its offensive and defensive identity because of the lack of quality practice time, Hansen said.
“Because the Wisconsin game was at the end of a really long road trip, I thought we regressed and unraveled a little bit when it came to our attention to detail, with following the things we wanted to accomplish from our scout, and on offense and defense we reverted to some bad habits,” Hansen said. “We were tired from travel, we weren’t concentrating, and we took a step back.”
The Cyclones, who welcome the Mavs for a 6 p.m. game at Hilton Coliseum that will generate $85,000 for UNO, are 6-3 and coming off an 80-71 loss Friday night to rival Iowa.
Iowa State previously lost twice to ranked teams (Cincinnati and UNLV) in a tournament in Las Vegas.
Like last year, when they returned to the NCAA tournament with strong contributions from Division I transfers, the Cyclones have had newcomers lead the way.
Utah transfer Will Clyburn, a 6-foot-7 senior forward, averages 14.3 points and 7.8 rebounds. Korie Lucious, a point guard who transferred from Michigan State, averages 9.9 points and 5.4 assists.
Squaring off against Lucious is CJ Carter, who potentially could have a Lucious-type impact at the Summit League-level down the road.
“I watched him when I was in high school and he was playing for Michigan State in the Final Four,” Carter said. “It’ll be good for me to get that experience.
“He carries his team. He’s a leader on the floor. He looks for shots and looks for shots for his teammates, too. I like the way he controls the game.”
Carter, a 6-foot sophomore, hasn’t fully recovered from a back injury that knocked him out of one game completely and limited him in four others. But he’s improving, he said.
“It’s real frustrating,” the Omaha Benson graduate said. “I feel like I can help the team way more than I am.”
Carter had 16 points and five assists in often spectacular fashion in a season-opening win against Northern Illinois, but he’s averaged 4.7 points and 1.8 assists since.
“Once we get in the Summit, we can play quicker,” Hansen said. “And people saw in the Northern Illinois game what CJ is capable of. ... CJ is a guy who, when he’s healthy, can put pressure on a defense — especially in transition.”
That describes Lucious now, only at the high-major level.
“If you turn it over or if there’s a long rebound, he is on you in a second,” Hansen said. “And he’s one of about three guys they have that can do that.
“You can send back as many guys as you want, but sometimes it doesn’t matter — they’re on you that quick.”
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