“I knew I had to be ready when my name was called… I had to be aggressive.”
Wanjang Tut had played sparingly during conference competition. At most, he had played 11 minutes against South Dakota on Feb. 7. Saturday night was a different story: Tut hit three layups, three free throws and one jumper in the last 6:11 of the first half. He went on to score a career-high 18 points in 20 minutes on the floor (his most time on the court since Arizona State on Nov. 28).
“It was win or go home, and we weren’t ready to go home,” he said after the game.
Wanjang credited Mitch Hahn (known around Omaha now as “Kid Clutch”). “He told me to be aggressive from the jump,” Tut said. “…and good things will happen.”
Initially, the game began as a competition of runs. Omaha made a 14-3 run in the first half to bring the score to 20-11. Then, North Dakota responded with a 9-2 run to make it 22-20. The half eventually ended with a two-point margin in UNO’s favor (48-46).
The second half was a different story. Both teams traded baskets back and forth while neither scored more than three buckets in a row. The margin slowly narrowed from seven points to six, five, four… until Omaha’s lead was only 77-76.
Wanjang Tut took the opportunity to put a punctuation mark on his career evening by laying the ball up and in. North Dakota attempted a designed play to score a quick basket, but the effort ultimately failed as Omaha claimed the victory by a score of 81-76.
The bench play for the Mavericks was a contributing factor that helped in getting the win. Aside from Tut, players like Ayo Akinwole and Brett Barney were able to come off the bench and provide energy when the team needed it. Akinwole was especially useful on the defensive end, as he led the team in steals with two.
“He’s really good on the ball,” Hansen said. “When Ayo kept getting the ball, that really helped us.”
Zach Jackson led the Mavs with 21 points, followed by Tut (18), Hahn (14) and Pile (12). Omaha led North Dakota in second chance points with 21 to North Dakota’s 11. In addition, Omaha shot 85.7 percent from the free throw line, whereas North Dakota shot 64.7 percent.
The Mavericks will play Monday at 8:30 pm against the winner of the Purdue-Fort Wayne versus South Dakota game. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and on radio on 1180 AM Zone 2.