Clutch Ability in Late-Game Situations Carrying Mavs to Success

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Omaha’s Brett Barney tries to win a rebound against Northern Arizona. Photo by Maria Nevada.

Kenneth Pancake

STAFF WRITER

On Thursday, Feb. 7, the Omaha men’s basketball team battled Summit League foe South Dakota to overtime, claiming victory in the final minutes by a score of 107-102.

A strong start to the second half gave the Mavericks an 18-point cushion, but the Coyotes took the lead back with nine minutes remaining in the game. The game went down to the wire, and Mitch Hahn – who else – shot the tying three-point shot to send the game to overtime. Omaha claimed the victory there.

“As soon as I caught it, I had a feeling (the South Dakota defender) was going to come flying. I just pump-faked. One dribble,” said Co-Captain Mitch Hahn in an Omaha World-Herald interview. “I practice that shot every night.”

Let it be noted that Hahn’s shot was from an NBA three-point line instead of a college boundary – the game was played at the Sanford Pentagon that hosts the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA G-League.

“That was a long 20 minutes and a lot of emotions,” said Co-Captain Zach Jackson in that same interview. “To show the resiliency, down with a minute to go, and be able to pull that to overtime – that was big time.”

This game layout is nothing new to this year’s team – in fact, it’s becoming quite standard. Just two weeks earlier, it was Purdue Fort Wayne who found themselves with a 17-point lead against the Mavericks. A final three-point shot from the Mastodons sent the game to overtime, but Omaha took the win 85-79.

And of course, every Maverick fan who has followed the team this season remembers the North Dakota comeback on Jan. 10 where Mitch Hahn hit the winning three-pointer to win the game 92-91.

It may not seem like it, but Omaha’s current roster has actually been developing this part of the game ever since last season. While going for under 10 wins in college basketball is not usually considered successful in any sense of the word, the Mavs were 4-2 in games decided by five points or fewer during the 2017-18 cycle.

This clutch ability in late-game situations could be what wins the Mavericks the Summit League this year. The only concern is how Omaha lands in these situations: UNO lost 17 and 18-point leads in the second half to Purdue Fort Wayne and South Dakota, respectively. Additionally, Omaha nearly gave away a 20-point lead to North Dakota at Baxter Arena earlier in the month.

For his part, Jackson understands there’s an issue to address. “We shouldn’t have let them come back like that. We’ve got to get better in that area,” he said in a Herald interview post-game. 

Perhaps the most disappointing loss in recent Omaha basketball history was the Summit League championship game in 2017 when Omaha missed a buzzer-beater that would have sent UNO to its first March Madness. But after two years of work, this looks like a team built to make that shot.

After a highly-anticipated matchup against South Dakota State at Baxter Arena on Feb. 14, Omaha wraps up its regular season with games against Purdue Fort Wayne and Western Illinois at home, followed by North Dakota State, Oral Roberts and Denver on the road. As of publication, the Mavericks are 14-9 (8-2).

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