The Mavericks found themselves down 69-61 with about 90 seconds remaining in their game Thursday night against Denver. From that point on, it was all Omaha and all Frankie Fidler. Fidler was the star of the show again and the freshman forward scored the game’s final 11 points, including a three at the buzzer, to give Omaha a 72-69 win over the Pioneers.
Fidler may have ended the game with 22, but it was not exactly a perfect night for the freshman. However, his early struggles were overshadowed at the end of the night. DU did a great job on the defensive end of double teaming Fidler and forcing him to pass. Most of the shots that Fidler did get up ended up being heavily contested — up until the final minutes.
Fidler was 4-14 from the field and only had 11 points up until that point, but he ended the game shooting 4-5 from the field and reeled off 11 consecutive points.
“It was just about confidence,” Fidler said after the game. “My shots weren’t falling but that wasn’t going to make me stop shooting. I know I’m a good enough player to overcome that and the last minute and a half, two minutes I was scoring. Big-time scores, too.”
It may have been Fidler who stole the show, but it was a true team win. The Mavericks out-rebounded Denver, 47-31, and added six steals and three blocks. It was a tough, gritty win and one where the Mavericks outworked their opponent. The Omaha players were the first to every loose ball, fought for every rebound and flew around on defense to close out on shooters.
“The power of together is a beautiful thing, and we were that tonight,” said Omaha head coach Derrin Hansen. “We have let just a couple slip away. What we were probably a little better at tonight was offensive and defensive situational substitutions. I thought we were better in our press; we got a steal and a basket out of it.”
Before this game started, Omaha honored two seniors on senior night, Marco Smith and Wanjang Tut. Both players have been contributors on both sides of the ball during their time playing at Omaha, but have especially shined on the defensive side of the ball.
Smith has been Omaha’s go-to defender this season, often guarding the other team’s best guard, and Tut finished his career ranked 14th on Omaha’s career blocks list.
“Number-one they are fantastic kids, they just are,” Hansen said of what he will remember about Smith and Tut. “They are yes sir, no sir, they are on time, they are polite, they are thank you, excuse me, yes ma’am, no ma’am, and I appreciate that about those guys, because those are the types of guys we have in our program. We’ve had an unbelievable culture in our program, we’ve had a 100% graduation rate, we’ve done a lot of great things within our program… Those two guys are what we are after.”
Denver was led in scoring by KJ Hunt and Coban Porter, as the pair each finished with 16 points. Hunt also added five rebounds and five assists. Touko Tainomo had a game-high 11 rebounds and added eight points before fouling out of the game. Michael Henn also scored 13 for the pioneers and pulled in four rebounds.
The Mavericks were once again led in scoring by Fidler, who finished the game with 22 points, nine rebounds, two steals and one buzzer-beater to win the game. Darrius Hughes had a big game off the bench, as the forward finished with 14 points and six rebounds. Nick Ferrarini and Smith also each scored 11 and shot a combined 6-for-10 from behind the three-point line.
Omaha will finish the regular season with a two-game road trip. The Mavericks will first travel to Macomb, Ill. where they will take on Western Illinois on Thursday, Feb. 24. Omaha will then close out the regular season in what will be their first-ever trip to Saint Thomas on Saturday, Feb. 26.