UNO hasn’t won a game in two months and its roster has been decimated by injuries, yet the Mavs can still cling to one indisputable fact as they prepare for their final home weekend.
The season starts over in March.
They do have to qualify for the postseason first. Only eight of the nine Summit League teams earn a spot in the conference tournament — and UNO (2-18, 0-10) sits in ninth place, one game behind Denver (2-15, 1-9).
The Mavs and Pioneers will determine which team gets in when they face off next weekend. UNO first hosts North Dakota (8-15, 7-7) for two games starting Friday.
And the Mavs remain hopeful about what they can accomplish during this stretch run, despite the current 14-game losing streak.
“If we take care of business and finish strong, we know that anything can happen at the tournament,” senior Ayo Akinwole said.
Akinwole said he and his teammates don’t feel like they’re too far away from putting it together, either. They can point to an example from nearly every conference weekend where they found themselves in a game late before falling a few plays short of victory.
The 71-69 defeat to North Dakota State. The four-point loss to South Dakota on the second day back from a three-week COVID-19 pause. The Mavs lost 75-73 in a wild game against Western Illinois two weeks ago. They held a five-point lead with 10 minutes left at UMKC last Saturday without leading scorer Marlon Ruffin, but a late drought cost them a win.
The UNO players remain motivated, though. Coach Derrin Hansen said he’s been encouraged by their approach — he’s watched the team put together a couple of strong practices this week.
“These guys, they are still grinding it out, still working hard,” he said. “We just haven’t gotten over the hump.”
The Mavs will play a North Dakota team that’s won four of its past six games. But the Fighting Hawks have also dropped 12 straight in the all-time series against UNO, dating back to 2007.
Saturday’s game will serve as the Mavs’ senior night celebration. Akinwole and Matt Pile are the two seniors on the UNO roster.