For the first 20 minutes against Seattle University, UNO looked nothing like a basketball team that averages 84 points per game.
The Mavericks shot 28 percent from the field, didn’t attempt a free throw and scored 22 points in the first half.
However, after a few halftime adjustments and a healthy dose of free throws, the University of Nebraska at Omaha rebounded in the second half to earn a 76-69 win Sunday afternoon at Ralston Arena.
Coach Derrin Hansen said his Mavericks suffered a bit of a hangover after a long trip to Minnesota on Friday and struggled to adapt to Seattle’s deliberate attack.
“I am really proud that we won in a fashion that we don’t normally play,” Hansen said. “They really slowed it down. It was a grind.”
The Mavs, whose previous low for a half (27) came against UNLV, were sluggish from the opening tip. UNO didn’t score until John Karhoff connected on a 3-pointer nearly five minutes in.
Justin Simmons was the only Mav who had any success offensively in the first half. The 6-foot-3 senior scored all 12 of his points before the break, including a 25-foot 3-pointer as the first half expired to cut Seattle’s lead to 26-22.
“He was crucial for us because we were really struggling putting the ball in the basket,” Hansen said. “He saved us on that end.”
After intermission, UNO (9-4) focused on playing more aggressively on offense and trapping more on defense. Hansen said his team needed to attack the rim more and have its big players set up deeper in the post.
During a four-minute stretch without a 3-point attempt, the Mavs went on a 12-2 run that included 10 points in the paint and two dunks by Matt Hagerbaumer on assists from Karhoff.
“Once we start attacking the rim, that opens everything up, because once we drive, we can kick out and start making open 3s,” junior guard CJ Carter said.
With the more aggressive play came more free throws. After attempting their first shot from the foul line two minutes into the second half, the Mavs finished the game making 28 of 32 free throws. UNO entered the bonus with 12:41 left in the game.
Devin Patterson scored 10 of his 12 points on free throws, including a stretch of nine straight makes. Carter and Karhoff combined to go 14 for 18 on free throws and led the Mavs with 17 and 15 points, respectively.
“We did a good job of changing (the lack of free throws) and putting the pressure on them and making the officials have to call something,” Karhoff said.
UNO led by as many as 13 points with 2:33 left, but Isiah Umipig led a furious comeback during the next 90 seconds. Umipig scored eight points and recorded two assists during a 14-3 Seattle run. Umipig finished with a career-high 35 points, but also committed seven turnovers.
The Redhawks, who finished with 24 turnovers, had a chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer in the final minute, but Emerson Murray’s shot with 43 seconds left was off the mark.
Hansen said he talked to Seattle coach Cameron Dollar before the game and compared notes about their schools’ transition to Division I, which Seattle (8-4) began in 2008.
“We’ve seen a lot of things going from D-II to D-I,” Hansen said. “The things that have to happen and the things that need to happen, from the good to the bad and ugly. This was a great measuring stick for us.”