IUPUI is seven games under .500 and sits near the bottom of the Summit League standings.
But the similarity with UNO (4-14, 1-5 Summit) pretty much ends there, Mavericks coach Derrin Hansen said.
“They're a really tough matchup for us because of their size and athleticism,” Hansen said.
Evidence of what IUPUI (6-13, 1-4) can do may be best demonstrated by its 57-53 overtime loss last Saturday at Western Illinois, the first-place team in the Summit at 5-0 and ranked No. 22 among mid-majors with a 12-3 record.
The Jaguars had 16 assists on their 20 baskets and committed eight turnovers.
“Western Illinois is a very well-coached team and I don't think they overlook anybody regardless of record,” Hansen said. “Western is a good team and just because IUPUI is talented had something to do with that score. They can really make shots.”
The Jaguars were picked to finish fifth in the Summit in the preseason but honors candidate Ian Chiles, a 6-foot-1 guard, played only four games and has now been ruled out for the season with a toe injury.
Center Mitchell Patton, 6-9 and 248 pounds, has missed five of the last eight games with a leg injury. IUPUI had just seven scholarship players available for its 81-63 loss at Maryland on Jan. 1.
Patton, averaging 13.1 points and shooting 59.4 percent from the field, did play against Western Illinois.
The Jaguars are getting steady contributions from guard John Hart, a Purdue transfer averaging 14.2 points while making 2.1 3-pointers per game. Greg Rice (46.3 percent) and reserve Jordan Shanklin (43.8) are among the Summit's most accurate 3-point shooters, and Sean Esposito has also heated up from long range of late. Donovan Gibbs is eighth in the league with a team-best 6.1 rebounds per game.
Meanwhile, a UNO team that was hit with illness during its weekend road trip to Oakland and Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne continues to get productive scoring from 6-3 wing Justin Simmons. Despite being ill during the weekend games, Simmons scored 24 in each, giving him three straight games of 20 points or more.
“His efficiency level has gotten better,” Hansen said of the junior college transfer. “He's starting to understand when to be aggressive within the scope of the offense, when to pass, when to move and cut. It takes new guys time to understand that.”
Hansen said UNO's overall energy level has been better in the past three games, after a clunker at home against South Dakota on Dec. 29.
“We'll fight,” Hansen said.
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