Pay little attention to the halftime score.
The latest chapter in UNO's surprising late-season success story has included second-half comebacks from large deficits in its last four victories.
“I guess my halftime speech is better than my pregame speech,” Mavericks coach Derrin Hansen said.
The University of Nebraska at Omaha (10-18), which has won two straight and five of seven, came back from nine points behind with 15 minutes left to beat Chicago State on Tuesday.
Before that, the Mavericks had rallied from 17 down with 18:30 left to win at IUPUI and snap a two-game skid. On Jan. 31, the Mavs were down by nine with just more than 19 minutes left before coming back to beat Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne, and their deficit in a Jan. 26 win at Missouri-Kansas City was 11 with 19 minutes left.
Hansen's halftime approach has ranged from tirades to teaching.
“and sometimes it's talking about what we had talked about but didn't do,” he said. “I wish we'd had some better starts.”
But, considering the way the season started during the always difficult second year in transitioning to Division I, Hansen is pleased his team has had the resolve to make second-half comebacks in the second half of the season.
“I'm not sure every team could have gone on the road for 37 days (between home games) and come back and refocus,” said Hansen, whose team didn't play at home from Nov. 11 until Dec. 18. “But they did, and I'm happy for our guys that they've kept working at it and found some success.”
The Mavs have three tough home games ahead of them, starting with Saturday's 1 p.m. BracketBuster game against North Dakota (12-14).
North Dakota hasn't shrunk from deficits, either. UND rallied from 11 points down with just more than 13 minutes left in a 64-62 win Tuesday at Northern Colorado, and has come from way behind for its last three road wins. North Dakota rallied from a 14-point deficit with 13:30 left to beat Montana State on Feb. 7, and from a 22-point first-half hole to win at Northern Arizona on Jan. 26.
North Dakota, which has retired its former Fighting Sioux nickname, also started the season slowly.
While UNO was 3-12 through Dec. 28 before going 7-6 since, North Dakota was 2-8 with no Division I wins through Dec. 27, but has since gone 10-6.
The Mavs are a surprising fifth in the Summit League, though they face league title contenders South Dakota State and North Dakota State next weekend. North Dakota is third in the Big Sky behind league powers Montana and Weber State.
UNO and North Dakota scrimmaged in the preseason.
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“They're talented,” Hansen said. “Their guards and wings are quick and can score it, and they have good size. They can score in transition and they run some sets. They're fundamentally sound on the defensive end.”
Junior wing Troy Huff averages 18.6 points per game and guard Aaron Anderson — who hit a late 3-pointer in the win over Northern Colorado — averages 13.7.
Starting forward Brandon Brekke has missed the last three games because of an ankle injury, while Josh Schuler — who adds 9.0 points off the bench — has missed the last five with back spasms.
UNO has stayed healthy and its confidence has gotten healthier as the season has progressed.
Subtract the six guarantee (money) games from the schedule and the Mavs have been a respectable 10-12. And UNO, picked to finish last in the nine-team Summit, will finish no worse than tied for seventh and perhaps as high as fifth.
“You never want to put a ceiling on your team,” Hansen said. “But if I had to say at the start of the season what I realistically thought we could do and what I optimistically thought we could do … I'd say right now we're probably somewhere in between that range.”
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