By Avery Wenck, Sports Editor
Mavericks Men’s basketball has not had quite the season they or head coach Derrin Hansen had expected this season.
Despite their struggles, this week provided an opportunity for them to pick up two crucial wins against South Dakota and Western Illinois.
Thursday would prove to be an exciting one as Mike Rostampour dominated in career-high fashion. He finished the game with a double-double on 24 points and 15 rebounds, both game highs.
The Mavericks got off to a good start and built an early eight-point lead thanks to three-pointers by CJ Carter and Tim Smallwood. That lead would further be extended to 14 as the Mavericks caught fire and in particular the UNO big men. Rostampour and Jake White continued to pound the glass and hit big shots during a stretch in the first half but the Mavericks would eventually let the Coyotes back into the game and go into halftime with a 34-33 lead. The only lead the Yotes would hold in the first half was with 1:34 left by one point.
The second half would be more of the same for the Mavericks as they held their halftime lead all the way to the end until the game-winning tip by Eric Robertson with 15 seconds to play.
With two minutes to play and the Mavericks down by two, Tre’Shawn Thurman went to work. He worked hard for a tip-in with 1:30 to play and then came from behind to slam home an alley-oop from Carter off a Yotes turnover. It wasn’t meant to be for Omaha as they would miss a crucial offensive rebound and allow Robertson to tip home the game-winner. The ball was put into Carter’s hands with some time to work with, but his floater from the free-throw line was off the mark and the Mavericks fell in disappointing fashion. Hansen said if he had to do it again, he’d always put the ball in Carter’s hands.
“I’d do it again in a second,” said Hansen. “I put the ball in CJ’s hands with 10 seconds to go and I’ll do it again Saturday if we need it. He got to the paint like he always does and got to a spot where he could score and that’s what we wanted.”
Rostampour had a career night but gave all the credit to his coaches and teammates for putting him in a position to succeed.
“Credit goes to my teammates, they played their asses off tonight and were very aggressive,” said Rostampour. “ They gave me open looks and CJ[Carter] did a great job creating open looks for myself and others. He helps us get to where we need to in order to be successful and the coaching staff also called out a lot of plays for me once I heated up.”
The Mavericks would welcome the Leathernecks of Western Illinois on Saturday for Senior day and it was a good day for Senior CJ Carter as Omaha came away with a 77-58 win.
Carter finished the game with a game-high 20 points on 7-17 from the field and six free throws.
Omaha dominated the paint and outscored the Leathernecks down low 42-12 despite being out re-bounded in the game. Rostampour continued his form from the Thursday night game and finished with12 points and eight rebounds.
Both teams traded punches in the first half and traded the lead six times but the Mavericks would go into halftime on top 29-25. The halftime lead was in no small part thanks to the UNO bench, which offered some good minutes and outscored the WIU bench 10-0.
The Mavericks came flying out of halftime and built a 16-point lead halfway through the second half thanks to CJ Carter, who created plenty of looks and made the one she took.
As the game wound down, the Mavericks made it their duty to not let this one slip like so many had in the past. They finished the second half with 30 points in the paint to WIU’s 10, as well as 20 on the fast break, an area they have struggled in the past couple of games.
The Mavericks will welcome Oral Roberts this Thursday at 7:00 before ending their season on a three-game road trip at Fort Wayne, IU–PUI and North Dakota.