By Nate Tenopir, Editor-in-Chief
UNO men’s basketball is last in The Summit League in team defense, allowing 83 points per game. That stat reared its ugly head again in an 84-79 loss Saturday night at Cal State Bakersfield.
A year after Omaha dropped two games to the Roadrunners in 13 days, the Mavs again came up short against Bakersfield. The Roadrunners shot more than 15 points higher than their season average while improving their record to 7-13.
UNO dropped to 5-16 (2-6 Summit League) and allowed Bakersfield to make 53.8 percent of their shots. The Mavs shot an equally impressive 50.8 percent, but came up just short at the end of the game.
After trailing by as much as 17 in the second half, Omaha was within three after a John Karhoff layup with 17 seconds to go. The Mavs fouled on the next possession, and the Roadrunners converted both free throws to push the lead back to five.
Karhoff scored again on a tip in with six seconds left, but Bakersfield made two more free throws to push the game out of reach.
All five of UNO’s starters finished in double figures, led by 14 points from both Karhoff and Justin Simmons. Karhoff added a team-high eight rebounds to go with three assists and a steal.
Simmons was nearly as effective, adding three helpers and two steals. CJ Carter put in 13 points, Alex Phillips scored 11 and Alex Welhouse was good for 10.
The latest loss now makes it two in a row after the Mavs defeated conference foe IUPUI 90-79 in Omaha on Jan. 10. UNO will return to conference play most of the rest of the season, playing six Summit League matchups in a row before facing Chicago State at home on Feb. 19. The Mavs then play in an ESPN BracketBuster on Feb. 23.
Omaha ends the season with two more conference games at home after the BracketBuster.
The BracketBuster opponent is yet to be determined, but it will be in Omaha in front of a national audience. If the Mavs are to make any sort of an impression a month from now, they’ll have to improve on their second-to-last defensive scoring average for all of Division I basketball.
The NCAA men’s basketball website doesn’t list UNO among its 345 D-I programs because Omaha is in the midst of reclassification. But if they were counted among the leaders, only Longwood is worse off, allowing 83.1 points per game.
The next closest Summit League team is IUPUI in a tie for 330th with an average of 76 points surrendered.
In UNO’s 16 losses, the Mavs have allowed an above average 87.5 points per game. The five wins have come courtesy of allowing almost 20 points less, 68.8 per game.
Offensively Omaha scores 66.5 in losses and 77.2 in wins. Those numbers aren’t surprising; most teams score a higher average in wins than they do in losses.
But the numbers are a lot closer for offense, whether it’s a win or a loss. UNO is plus almost 11 in points scored in a win compared to a loss, but negative almost 20 in points allowed in a loss compared to a win.
To put it in a better perspective, one of the Mavs’ earlier opponents from this season, Nebraska, just earned their first B1G 10 win of the season Saturday at Penn State. The Cornhuskers are one of the better defenses in the country, but one of the more inept offenses.
Nebraska gives up an average of 61.2 points per game, good enough for 63rd in the nation. On defense the Huskers score just 58.1 points per game, about 11 less than the average of the UNO offense.
But in a game in Lincoln on Nov. 18, Nebraska allowed only 62 to UNO, and scored 75.
In the next week the Mavs face The Summit League’s second and eighth-best scoring offense.
On defense, South Dakota is seventh allowing 75.2 points per game, while Kansas City is fifth giving up 72.4.
Having any success in the final 10 games of the season will require more consistency in UNO’s defensive numbers.