UNO executed its mission against Air Force.
The Mavericks jumped to an 8-0 lead — with freshman Mikaela Shaw scoring six points — and led by as many as 31 in an 84-56 victory Wednesday night before 579 at Sapp Fieldhouse.
“It's always a goal for us to give them that first punch and take the lead, both at the beginning of the game and the start of the second half,” Shaw said.
The lead reached 20 points in the first half, and never dropped below 16 in the second half.
“We've been holding people to fewer points in the first half and starting out games pretty well,” interim coach Brittany Lange said. “And we've really been emphasizing playing the right way, and tonight they really played the right way — minus a few spurts in the second half.”
UNO shot 53.1 percent from the field — its best performance in 25 games against a Division I opponent dating to early last season. The Mavs outrebounded a Division I foe (36-29) for just the second time in eight tries this season, and forced the Falcons into 23 turnovers, matching the most by a Division I team against UNO since it began its transition in 2011-12.
The Mavs had a chance at producing double-figure point totals for all eight players in their regular rotation. But they settled for six instead.
“Each person is capable of rattling off those numbers,” Lange said. “And we're trying to even out the minutes, too, to keep the energy going.”
Shaw, a forward from Sandy Creek High School, led the Mavs with 16 points and seven rebounds, while Sami Pawlak scored 13 points, Victoria Trowbridge had 12 points and seven rebounds and guards Ericka House, Lanese Bough and Madi Robson all scored 10. Robson also had eight assists and four steals, while Bough had six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
The Mavs simply outclassed Air Force in a matchup of teams with similarly low RPI ratings — both entered the game among the bottom 15 in Division I.
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Air Force (1-7), whose lone win was against North Dakota State — one of UNO's Summit League rivals — played without its top player. Cherae Medina, second on the team in scoring (11.7 points per game) as well as first in rebounds (4.3) and assists (4.5), has “ongoing” knee problems, coach Andrea Williams said, and her availability is expected to be a game-to-game decision for the rest of the season.
“Our team feels comfortable when she's out there,” Williams said.
UNO (4-5) snapped a three-game losing streak — all on the road and two of them close — and improved to 4-0 at home, with three of the wins against Division I teams.
“We played two really good road games where we just couldn't finish at the end,” Lange said. “But at home we seem very calm and confident.”
Thursday night the Mavs face Eureka (Ill.), a solid 4-1 Division III program that, on paper, appears capable of offering as much firepower as Air Force.
“Very similar,” Lange said. “They play five out. They're all about the same height and they are very good shooters. It's going to be important for us to do the same thing.”
Air Force (1-7) ........ 30 26—56
At UNO (4-5) ........... 48 36—84
AF: Fotsch 2-4 0-0 4, Lewis 1-4 4-5 6, Blagowsky 1-8 0-0 2, Graham 0-2 0-0 0, Thompson 5-8 2-2 12, Lujan 4-8 0-1 8, Williams 4-7 2-4 10, Byrd 4-8 4-4 12, Cavanaugh 0-0 0-0 0, Philpot 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 22-51 12-16 56.
UNO: Shaw 6-11 4-4 16, Bough 3-4 4-4 10, Kelly 3-6 2-2 8, House 4-12 0-0 10, Robson 4-6 2-3 10, Anderson 2-6 0-0 5, Trowbridge 6-9 0-2 12, Pawlak 6-9 1-2 13, Coleman 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 34-64 13-17 84.
3-point goals: AF 0-11 (Graham 0-1, Thompson 0-3, Lujan 0-3, Blagowsky 0-4), UNO 3-14 (House 2-8, Anderson 1-4, Robson 0-1, Coleman 0-1). Fouled out: none. Rebounds: AF 29 (Blagowsky 4), UNO 36 (Shaw, Trowbridge 7). Assists: AF 11 (Lewis, Blagowsky, Graham, Thompson 2), UNO 22 (Robson 8). Turnovers: AF 23, UNO 14. Total fouls: AF 18, UNO 17. Att.: 579.