After Christmas, University of Nebraska at Omaha coach Derrin Hansen sized up the Mavericks’ next six games as a chance to get more of a true feel for where his team stood and where it might be going in the near future.
Well, the first game in that stretch (Dec. 29 against South Dakota) didn’t turn out so well — the Coyotes shot 57.6 percent from the field and made 11 3-pointers while holding UNO to 37.8 percent shooting in a humbling 95-72 home loss.
But in five games since — all from the Summit League, like South Dakota — UNO has been more than respectable offensively while going 2-3. A little bit better on the defensive end and on the boards, and who knows?
“We’ve really battled and competed,” Hansen said. “We’ve gone down to the last couple of minutes against a couple of the top teams in the league and we’ve won a couple of other games.
“If we keep competing the way we’re capable, we’re going to get our share of wins and results that we want.”
In the last five games, UNO has shot 51.7 percent from the field and 38.2 percent from 3-point range. Those percentages are helped by 62.3 percent shooting from the field in a Jan. 10 win against IUPUI and a 50 percent performance (11 of 22) from 3 in a Jan. 3 loss to Oakland.
For the season, the Mavs are shooting 45.5 percent from the field and 35.1 percent from beyond the arc.
“Over time we’ve found a rhythm,” Hansen said. “We’ve got a lot of new guys, and they’ve started to figure out how our offense works and where the shots are. The bad shots and quick shots have started to go away, and hence our shooting percentage has gone up.”
Defense has still been a problem, though. In the last five games, UNO foes are shooting 50 percent from the field (compared to 49 percent for the season) and 41.7 from 3 (39.0 for the season).
“We have to be better there,” Hansen said. “We’re not fighting the ballhandler well enough, and we’re not gang-rebounding like we need to — that leads to extra possessions.”
Rebounding may be the most critical element in Saturday’s 9 p.m. game with Cal State Bakersfield.
Despite playing a list of solid teams that includes UNLV, San Diego State, Wyoming, California, Colorado State and South Dakota State, and despite being undersized, the Roadrunners are being outrebounded by only 1.8 per game. They pull down an average of 11.6 offensive rebounds.
UNO, meanwhile, is being outrebounded by 8.4 per game for the season but by a little more bearable 6.0 per game in the last five. The Mavs give up an average of 13 offensive rebounds, though they have trimmed that to 11.4 during the last five.
“They all rebound it,” Hansen said of the Roadrunners. “They’re quick and athletic and they climb the glass. And they score in transition and shoot it just well enough that they can cause a team fits. They’ll give us all we want. We’ll have to play well to win.”
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