AMES, Iowa — Progress isn't always measured by the final score.
The University of Nebraska at Omaha made a couple of pushes to make things interesting and ultimately couldn't keep up with Iowa State in a 93-65 defeat Sunday night in front of 12,785 (paid) at Hilton Coliseum. But the Mavericks felt a lot better about how things played out than five nights earlier in a loss to another power-conference team in Wisconsin.
UNO recovered from an early 18-2 deficit to get within four, 22-18. The Mavs were down 14 with 11:22 to play. They had 19 assists on 24 field goals. And they made a season-best of 11 of 23 from 3-point range.
“We're a young team and tonight was one of our better steps,” UNO coach Derrin Hansen said. “I really like what we did tonight, and if we can build on that, it should give us some confidence going into Denver and the rest of our schedule.”
Meanwhile, freshman forward Georges Niang moved into the starting lineup two days after Iowa State's disappointing loss to Iowa and scored 15 points, one of six Cyclones in double figures. Melvin Ejim came off the bench and grabbed 13 rebounds in 18 minutes.
“We've still got work to do,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. “This was a new one — you've got to get through it coming off a loss where we didn't handle adversity well. … We've had a few of those moments, especially in the three losses we've had.
“I was happy with the way our guys responded. We came out and played the right way. They took care of business and did what they were supposed to do.”
John Karhoff scored 13, Marcus Tyus 12 and Alex Phillips had 11 for UNO, which dropped to 2-9 with its fourth straight loss. The Mavs have one more game left, Saturday at Denver, on their grueling 10-game road trip.
UNO's 11 3-pointers were the most in 24 games, dating to late December of last season against Coppin State, when the Mavs made 12.
Often Hansen said, those opportunities came after UNO moved the ball from side to side multiple times on a possession.
“We have guys from that point who can get into the paint and make plays for others,” Hansen said. “I'll bet we made nine-step in 3s off passes from teammates. That's what we need.”
Iowa State (7-3) jumped to an 18-2 lead in less than seven minutes, but Tyus scored eight straight points — the first six on a pair of 3-pointers. Then Phillips added five more, and then Caleb Steffensmeier hit a 3 and suddenly the Mavs were only down 22-18.
“That wasn't what we wanted,” Tyus said of the slow start. “But we got back in the game and tried to play hard and keep it there.”
After a Cyclone timeout, Iowa State scored the next 13 points to regain control and eventually pulled out to a 52-28 halftime lead.
But UNO made a second-half push, too, as Steffensmeier fed Karhoff for a layup that cut the deficit to 61-47 — one of Steffensmeier's season-high seven assists. But the Cyclones hit back-to-back 3s and kept the lead at 20 or more for the final 9-1/2 minutes.
“We still need to work on getting out of the gate quicker,” Karhoff said. “The second half we were in a lot better groove. We just need to be more consistent. We've seen what we can do, and we saw it in the second half.”
Iowa State outscored UNO by four, 41-37, as the Mavs shot 51.9 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes to finish the game at 45.3 percent.
But the Cyclones had six turnovers for the entire game and allowed UNO to get only one offensive rebound while owning a 45-24 advantage on the boards.
“We didn't shoot the ball great (50 percent) and we scored 93 — it's because we had extra opportunities to shoot the ball,” Hoiberg said. “We got offensive rebounds. We didn't give them extra shots. That stuff is huge. Now we have to do that every night, not just against this team.”
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