Defense comes up big late in BracketBuster win over North Dakota

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By Nate Tenopir, Editor-in-Chief

Junior center John Karhoff earned his first double-double in two seasons and the UNO defense came with enough stops at the right time to topple North Dakota 83-75 in Saturday afternoon’s BracketBuster.

Karhoff scored 17 points on 10 rebounds in the first matchup between the two teams since 2008.  As former foes in Division II’s North Central Conference, UND and UNO had played 88 times before Saturday with North Dakota owning a 54-34 advantage.

But Saturday the Mavs extended the winning streak over UND to five games thanks to some timely defense late in the second half.

“That’s our guards getting over those ball screens,” Karhoff said about the late defense.  “They set a lot of ball screens.  First half they were kinda getting in the paint, we switched that up in the second half [and] kinda made a stand on them.”

UNO’s stand came with 5:44 left in the game.  Shane Benton made a layup to reclaim a one-point, 71-70 North Dakota lead, but UND failed to score a field goal the rest of the way.

Over the final five plus minutes the Maverick defense limited North Dakota to 0-for-11 shooting, two turnovers and just five points.  Meanwhile, UNO put the game in the hands of CJ Carter and he created offense with the shot clock winding down.

“When it gets to 10 left on the shot clock, it’s basically a pick and roll getting called,” Carter said.  “I was just looking to make a big play for us because we needed it.”

Leading 75-73 Carter drove the lane, drew defenders then dished it off to a wide open Karhoff who made an easy layup.  On the next possession, two free throws from North Dakota’s Jamal Webb put UND back with two at 77-75 with 1:48 left.

But again it was Carter forcing the issue and finding a teammate.  As the shot clock wound down Carter again drove the lane, drew defenders then passed to the near corner to an open Alex Welhouse.

Welhouse drained the 3 and effectively ended the game, giving UNO an 80-75 lead with just 1:16 remaining.

Carter finished the afternoon with a tough 5-for-15 shooting performance, but the Mavs’ point guard managed to put in 12 points, grab eight rebounds and dish out five assists in 35 minutes.

The Omaha native only scored four of his points in the first half, but for the first time in several games, the rest of his team got off to a strong start.

After some back-and-forth scoring for the first 10 minutes of the first half, the Mavs scored nine straight in less than 3 minutes.  With 8:26 remaining a Karhoff layup pushed the Omaha lead to 25-13 and North Dakota was forced to take a timeout.

Just four days earlier UNO trailed Chicago State by nine in the second half of a 79-75 win.  The game before, Omaha overcame a 17-point halftime deficit at IUPUI.  On Jan 26 the Mavs fought back from an 11-point second half deficit against UMKC to win 67-59.

Thus it might have been predictable that Omaha’s good start wouldn’t last too long.  North Dakota hit four 3-pointers and scored 20 points in a span of just 5:31 and UND had erased UNO’s early lead.

Three of those 3-pointers came from North Dakota’s second leading scorer, Aaron Anderson.

“I just think that’s part of the game, runs like that,” Karhoff said.”  (Anderson) is a really good player.  You have to respect everything he does on the floor.”

Anderson, who averages 13.7 points per game finished with 19 while leading scorer Troy Huff (18.6 ppg) had a game-high 21.  But 12 of Anderson’s 19 and 14 of Huff’s 21 came in the first half.

“They know their strengths.  They were attacking well and making it tough on us the whole game,” Karhoff said.  “In the second half it was more of kind of stepping up and saying we’re not gonna let that happen anymore.”

After allowing Anderson to shoot 4-of-7 in the first half, and Huff 7-of-12, Omaha limited Anderson to 3-of-9 and Huff 2-of-9 in the second.  UNO’s defense as a whole, after allowing UND to hit 11 of the first 19 second half shots, clamped down and allowed just 2-for-18 the rest of the way.

“They got guys who can really put it on the floor and get there (to the rim),” Hansen said.  “I thought we fought the ball screen harder, two we tried to trap it a time or two to get them out of their rhythm, and I thought that helped us.”

After the quick first half run by North Dakota, the lead changed hands three more times and the two teams went into the half tied 41-41.  The lead went back and forth 12 more times while UND was hitting 61 percent of their shots to start the second half.

When Omaha picked up the defense with 9:55 left, North Dakota only scored eight more points the rest of the way.  The teams continued to trade baskets until a big 3 from Justin Simmons made it 73-73 with 3:48 remaining.

Simmons bucket was followed by two straight baskets from Karhoff, the last coming on Carter’s assist while driving the lane.  UND scored two from the foul line to cut the Omaha lead to 77-75, but the next possession was when Carter found Welhouse for the dagger from 3-point range.

North Dakota missed six more shots and committed a turnover the rest of the way while Alex Phillips, Welhouse and Caleb Steffensmeier each hit a free throw to seal it.

Simmons finished with 20 points, including going 3-for-4 from 3 and 5-for-6 from the foul line.  It was the 10th time this season Simmons has finished a game with 20 points or more.

Karhoff’s 10 rebounds led the way on the boards and Carter’s five assists were a team-high.  The Mavs edged out UND in shooting by a slim 44.8 percent to 42.9 percent.

UNO’s biggest success came at the line where Omaha was 18-for-24 while North Dakota made just 9-of-19.

“[North Dakota} is a team that has seen the transition like we have, but is ahead of us by a few years and  has gone through some of the stuff we’re going through,” Hansen said about defeating a team that has also reclassified into D-I.  “To see where there at and how they’re doing, they’re third in the Big Sky right now.  It means a lot to come out and play well against a team like that.”

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