By Nate Tenopir, Editor-in-Chief
Women’s basketball left the Sapp Fieldhouse Saturday afternoon, heads hung low, disappointed in their performance after a 74-64 loss to conference leader South Dakota State. The loss marked just the third time all year an opponent had come into Omaha and won on the Mavericks’ home court.
Before Saturday, UNO had a 10-2 mark at home and was in the midst of a five-game home winning streak. But a 22-7 run over the final 9:16 of the first half turned a three-point Jackrabbit lead into a 15-point lead by halftime. UNO came within nine points twice in the second half but never really recovered from SDSU’s big run.
It was the first time a Summit League team had beaten the Mavs in Omaha. The game also marked the end of UNO’s first trip through the conference.
South Dakota State was the last Summit League team the Mavs had yet to see in 2013. Although the result was less than ideal, UNO women’s basketball has to be pleased about where it’s at entering the final eight games of the season.
“We don’t like to lose but I think we can really feed off of this,” Carolyn Blair-Mobley said after scoring 17 points against the Jackrabbits. “We did some good things. We just have to tighten up a few things. But we can really stay positive from this and just keep moving in the conference.”
SDSU came into Omaha the conference leader and the preseason favorite to take The Summit League title. The Jackrabbits have won four straight conference tournament titles and three regular season titles in five years.
SDSU has gone 7-1 in its first eight conference matchups and feature preseason All-Summit League First-Team selection Paige Frauendorfer. UNO, on the other hand, did not come into 2012-2013 with near the same amount of accolades.
Coaches in the conference had little faith in the Mavs’ ability to compete in the first year of league play and chose UNO dead last in the preseason Summit League poll. But halfway through the conference season the Mavs are 4-4, lead the league in offensive and defensive field goal percentage, come in second in rebounding and have the second-best overall record at 14-6, just a half game behind SDSU’s 15-6.
Thus, despite Saturday’s tough defeat, UNO’s players and coaching staff have very good reasons to stay positive.
“Like I told them (the team), if we can take that second half and do that the rest of conference play I think we’re gonna be okay,” Head Coach Chance Lindley said. “I think we learned a lot in this game, learned that it’s a very good team but I think we were still very competitive.”
The Mavs will get another chance at South Dakota State in Brookings, S.D. in three weeks. But before then UNO has a stretch of conference rematches against teams the Mavs posted a 2-2 record against.
In order to have an equally successful second half to Summit League play, UNO will have to backup some earlier home wins on the road. The Mavs went 3-1 against the teams they’ll be facing on the road, and just the opposite for the teams they’ll face in the final four home games.
Although all eight rematches will be in a different venue with a different atmosphere, Lindley says not much else has to change.
“I think this team, we are who we are,” Lindley said. “I think we know our strengths, we know our weaknesses [and] we believe in our defense which has done very well for us.”
In addition to having the top defensive field goal shooting team, the Mavs also average just 55 points against, 33.8 total rebounds and force 17.2 turnovers per game. UNO’s scoring defense is first in the league while the rebounding and turnover numbers are third-best.
Individually, Summit League All-Second Team preseason selection Paige Frauendorfer leads the conference with 170 total rebounds and averages a league-best 8.5 per game. Blair-Mobley is fourth with 143 total rebounds while teammate Taijhe Kelly is second in the conference with 36 total blocks.
Although defense has driven the team, Frauendorfer and point guard Jamie Nash have dominated on the offensive end as well. Frauendorfer is fifth in the conference with 14.0 points per game and eighth in shooting at 44.3 percent.
Nash leads the Summit League with 7.0 assists per game. This season both Frauendorfer and Nash have passed the 1,000-point mark, and Nash took over the school record in career assists.
Thus, while few gave Omaha women’s basketball much of chance in its first full year of conference competition, the team, and several individual players are starting to show that UNO belongs.
It’s a good start but Lindley feels there’s still a ways to go.
“There’s a huge difference in some areas and then there’s some areas where it’s not as big,” Lindley said. “It depends on if you’re looking at depth, personnel or a little bit of everything. I think we’re still close, but very far. If that makes sense.”