There was a moment early in Sunday’s defeat to Oral Roberts when UNO junior Marlon Ruffin was joined out on the court by one sophomore, one junior college transfer and two freshmen.
And a few minutes later, Ruffin got subbed out by another newcomer from the juco ranks.
So it’s not difficult for Ruffin — who went through his own early-season growing pains as a transfer before becoming Summit League’s top sixth man last year — to remind himself of the Mavs’ growth potential. Even after an 0-2 start to conference play.
“We still haven’t even hit our full groove yet,” he said.
UNO (2-10, 0-2) definitely hopes to keep making progress — and picking up wins along the way remains the goal. Up next is another tough test. The Mavs play two road games at North Dakota State (4-6, 2-0), starting Friday.
But ultimately Ruffin and his teammates want to be peaking in March.
Perhaps by then UNO will have playmaking guards Marco Smith and Zach Thornhill healthy. And some of the Mavs’ young reserves will be more seasoned.
Redshirt freshman La’Mel Robinson logged an average of 19.5 minutes in the two games against Oral Roberts. Freshman Jadin Booth (14.5), sophomore Devin Evans (12.0) and sophomore Darrius Hughes (10.5) averaged double-digit minutes, too. Junior Sam’i Roe started both outings.
So there’s plenty of room for the team to grow as it gains experience and builds chemistry, according to Ruffin.
“We’ve got all what we want in front of us,” Ruffin said. “We’re down two games in conference, but we’ve still got a lot of games to play, and we’ve still got March to get to. We’re going to figure everything out. Just gotta keep going day by day.”
UNO’s first game at North Dakota State is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The two teams are scheduled to play again at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The games will be available on ESPN Plus and on 1180 AM KZOT.
The UNO women will play for the first time in three weeks as the Mavs play at North Dakota State on Friday and Saturday. Both games tip at 5 p.m.
UNO (1-4) has had its past three games called off because of COVID-19 concerns.
Playing its Summit League opener, UNO leads the conference in creating turnovers, forcing 16.8 per game. North Dakota State (6-2) is shooting 40.3% from the 3-point range, led by Lincoln Christian graduate Michelle Gaislerova, who is 13 of 26 for the season.