Written by Joe Gabbert
The Maverick’s men’s basketball team defeated Western Illinois Saturday Feb. 8, 71-60, in a tough and scrappy contest amongst more than 1,000 fans at Ralston Arena. After this victory the Mavericks have an even record in Summit League at 4-4 and a 15-9 record overall.
“It’s never fun playing Western Illinois because you know going into the game what is going to happen,” said John Karhoff of the Leathernecks. “They’re a physical team and they did have us frustrated in parts of the game.”
The Mavericks held a single digit lead for most of the first half and went into the locker room with a 35-28 advantage.
As the second half began, Western Illinois slowly chipped away at the lead until 11 minutes were left in the half Garret Covington hit a three pointer to tie the game 43-43.
The two teams switched leads and tied for the next few minutes until University of Nebraska at Omaha guard Justin Simmons hit a huge three-off an assist from Caleb Steffenmeier to give them the lead for good. Omaha extended its lead to 11, its largest of the game, at 69-58 with 0:38 left on a power jam by Simmons, then went on to take the 71-60 win.
The Mavericks dominated the paint on both defense and offense and ended up with a 30-18 advantage in scoring there.
“A big part of that is Mike [Rastampour] and [Matt Hagerbaumer],” said Justin Simmons.”Mike is a big body and Haggerbaumer is athletic enough that he doesn’t have to jump at pump fakes and if he does he can bounce right back up and get a blocked shot. It starts on the perimeter too and scouting. Its more than just it looks like it is. Mike is a big body where if you go in there, you’re going to have to go strong or you’re not going to get it. It’s a team effort.”
John Karhoff made a big impact with his scoring in the post, and finished with 19 points and also recorded a block while doing a great job of protecting the paint. Justin Simmons also recorded 19 points and came on strong in the second half to help the Mavs close the Leathernecks out.
“It was really just a grind the whole game,” said Karhoff. “It was one of those games where you never really felt comfortable, one of those games where you have to keep fighting through that, and I think we did a good job of that.”
Simmons also expressed similar sentiments saying, “It was like a race in a track meet. You might not be able to see them behind you, but you know that they’re there.”
This marks the first time the Mavericks are .500 in the Summit League. They will continue to look to improve their record this Thursday at 7:00 p.m. in the Ralston Arena against South Dakota State. The game will also be broadcast live on KZOT 1180 AM with Gary Sharp and Grant Nieland on the call.