By Nate Tenopir – Nick Beaulieu, Editor-in-Chief – Contributor
Justin Simmons scored 23 points, Marcus Tyus had 22 and men’s basketball defeated Fort Wayne Thursday night to pick up their third win in a row. UNO (8-16, 5-6 Summit League) extended its longest winning streak of the season thanks to shooting a season high 62.7 percent from the field.
After shooting an equally impressive 50 percent in the first half, the Mavs simply couldn’t miss in the second half, hitting on 18-of-23 for 78.3 percent.
“The second half we made good shots,” Tyus said. [We were] rotating the ball, driving and kicking and not forcing the turnover too much. We had good looks from the inside and the outside and the guys knocked down their shots.”
UNO missed their first shot of the second half with almost three minutes off the clock. The Mavs would not miss again for over 12 minutes.
In that span UNO made 12 shots in a row and went from being down 45-42 to leading 76-69. Simmons, who led all scorers, scored 12 of his 23 in the same span after putting up just one point on 0-for-3 shooting in the first half.
“I was just watching and waiting in the first half,” Simmons said about his slow start. “Twenty minutes gone I got everybody talking to me in the locker room because they know…I’m Justin Simmons. I’m averaging 15 points, it’s ok if you only got one point right now. Just keep doing it, flush it out [and] come out even harder, stay aggressive. That’s all I did was watch and wait and [I] came out strong.”
Simmons strong second half included 22 points on 7-of-8 shooting and 2-of-3 from long range.
On the defensive size the Mavs kept Fort Wayne about even, giving up a shooting percentage of 42.9 in the first half and 41.4 in the second. I almost every other category Omaha was dominated.
The Mastodons committed seven less turnovers (18-11), scored more points off those turnovers (27-13), scored more second chance points (11-0) and won the rebounding battle (34-27).
But the one area UNO had the advantage in was bench points. The Mavs outscored Fort Wayne 26-10 off the bench thanks in large part to Tyus’ 22.
“I guess I had another good game, that’s all you can say,” Tyus said. “[I] made shots, [we] had to do what we did, the team wanted me to step up [and] I came up to the plate.”
Thursday night was the second time Tyus came off the bench to hurt the Mastodons. In a game at Fort Wayne on Jan. 5, Tyus scored 20 points as a reserve, shooting 8-of-13 and 2-of-4 from 3-point range.
The Mastodons learned little from that experience as they again allowed Tyus to provide a spark and shoot 8-of-12 and 3-of-4 from 3.
“He averaged 27 or 28 in high school, he can really score the basketball,” Head Coach Derrin Hansen said about Tyus. “He gives us some of that punch. In the first half he hit a couple tough shots, hit a couple step-ins. We ran another set for him [and] he hit the three at the top. He can create on his own. He hit the little dribble fade-away right in front of our bench in the second half. He can do all those things.”
Hansen said the points were nice but Tyus’ biggest role Thursday night might have been in helping to shut down Fort Wayne’s leading scorer Frank Gaines. Gaines averages 19 points per contest, shoots 40 percent from the field and 31 percent from 3-point range.
Thursday against the Mavs he upped those averages by scoring 32 while shooting 58 percent and getting to the line for 10 free throws.
But when Tyus was subbed in, Gaines was neutralized at the most critical part of the game.
“Marcus Tyus really kept the ball out of his hands the last three or four minutes of the basketball game,” Hansen said. “You’ve got to give him credit. We’ve had a lot of guys come through here as freshmen. He (Tyus) can slide his feet and get places quicker than most of the guys we’ve had around here.”
The other Mavs in double figures were John Karhoff with 12 points and Alex Phillips with 11. On the glass CJ Carter lead with eight rebounds while also handing out six assists.
Prior to their current three-game win streak, UNO hadn’t won back-to-back games all season. Among their first 12 games, the Mavs had two separate five-game losing streaks..
But the Mavs have gained some consistency lately, going 5-5 over their last 10. UNO has shot above 50 percent in five of the last seven as well as made a little history.
A week ago the Mavs won 95-90 at South Dakota to pick up the programs’ first ever road conference win. Two days later UNO won 67-59 to complete the first-ever season sweep of a Summit League team.