How significant was UNO’s first-ever Summit League victory?
“I guess I’m not going to get asked about it any more, so I guess that’s a good thing,” UNO coach Derrin Hansen said. “We’re trying to build a program and build it the right way. To get one hopefully proves that at some point, some day, we’re going to belong in this thing day in and day out.”
The Mavericks, who bounced back from a discouraging 95-72 loss Saturday against South Dakota with a surprising 77-65 victory two days later against Missouri-Kansas City, now hit the road for a two-game trip to perennial league power Oakland at 6 p.m. CST on Thursday and Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne on Saturday.
“We can take that sort of effort and energy on the road and live with whatever happens,” Hansen said of Monday’s game. “What happened (Saturday) would be difficult (to accept).”
UNO (4-12, 1-3), like many of its new Summit League brethren before it, is working its way through the difficult transition to Division I.
“It’s tough to (successfully recruit) players at the same level as everybody else in the league because you can’t go to the NCAA tournament for a couple of years,” said Oakland coach Greg Kampe, in an interview on the school’s athletic website.
“He (Hansen) seems to be doing a pretty darn good job. They’re going to go through their struggles, just like everybody else who went through that process. … They had a great win the other night and I’m sure they’re really excited to get their first conference win.”
Kampe took Oakland through the transition to Division I in the late 1990s and has turned the suburban Detroit school into a mid-major player.
The Golden Grizzlies have the fourth-best in-conference record in the country over the past four years at 46-10. Only Kansas (45-5 in the Big 12), Murray State (46-6 in the Ohio Valley) and Kentucky (40-8 in the SEC) have been better.
They’ve been as high as a No. 13 seed in the NCAA tournament.
This year Oakland (6-9 overall, 1-1 Summit) has played its typical road warrior slate — similar to UNO, it has played 12 of its 15 games on the road.
Oakland has lost to the likes of Boise State (88-80), Pittsburgh (overtime), Michigan State (close until the end), Tennessee, Ohio and West Virginia (76-71). The Golden Grizzlies have led in the second half of six of their nine losses, including by 18 against Pitt and by seven against West Virginia.
They feature 6-foot-5 sharpshooter Travis Bader, the national leader in made 3-pointers (60), ballhawk Duke Mondy (who led the Big East in steals while playing for Providence two seasons ago and is ninth nationally this year) and solid 6-10 center Corey Petros, averaging 13.3 points and 7.7 rebounds.
On Monday, UNO jumped on a UMKC team that had just played No. 25 Kansas State within eight points.
They hit their first four 3-point tries in taking an 18-9 lead and made 6 of 8 from long range to make it 28-16. Then Justin Simmons hit back-to-back 3s (making UNO 8 for 13) to start a 15-0 run that made it 43-17 late in the first half.
“Coach told us, ‘Don’t let this be a fluke,’” Simmons said. “… We should still be able to bring the same type of energy.”
UNO kept the lead at 10 points or more for the entire second half.
“We have enough talent to do things like that against teams in our league,” Hansen said of the overall performance. “I can’t say we can do that every single night out. But we’re still very young as a team and you hope as you get into the second semester that you become more consistent.”
Effort is the first part, and UNO saw over the weekend what a difference it can make.
“I think every night they’ll show up and give you their best effort,” Kampe said. “Some nights that best effort will come up a little short for them, but they’re going to have their nights like against Kansas City where they came out, made everything and looked really good.
“We’ve just got to make sure that’s not against us.”
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