In their long-awaited first home game of the season, the UNO Maverick’s Men’s Basketball team defeated Drake in a tight match, scoring 75 to Drake’s 73. The team would grab eight steals, nearly equaling the total of the previous three games (9), and would also hold Drake to an eight-minute drought in the second half.
“It gives our guys a lot of confidence,” said Mitch Hahn, who returned after sitting out for several games due to a shoulder injury. This marks the first close game out of four so far that ended with an Omaha win. Head Coach Derrin Hansen simply said, “Our guys really competed tonight,” citing an increased defensive presence and an ability to avoid being pressured by Drake’s full court style of defense.
Hahn, who has struggled all season, shot 0-8 from behind the arc and finished with just four points in 34 minutes. Hahn was supposed to be Omaha’s top scoring threat this season, but his struggles have surely attributed to the Mavericks rough start. Well known for his ability to shoot the long ball, defenders have stuck to him like glue and not let him get any open looks on the perimeter. Hahn’s best game this season came at Creighton during an exhibition match when he finished with a double-double. He scored 16 points in a loss to Montana State earlier in the season as well. A home and crowd favorite, fans expect the early season shooting woes to fix themselves out for Hahn as the season progresses. The problem is finding more weapons that can penetrate the lane to get Hahn open looks on the wing. As Daniel Norl continues to find his niche, him and K.J. Robinson will have to exploit defenses much like Marcus Tyus did last year to get those open looks.
After losing an NCAA tournament bid by just one last-second 3-point attempt last season, the team has its sights set on one goal: conference play. “0-7, 1-7, it doesn’t matter, it’s not our goal,” said Daniel Norl about the win. This was in reference to repeated remarks from Coach Hansen that the goal is to be prepared for conference play, and put themselves in a position where they can win the Summit League tournament in March.
Zach Jackson led the team in points scoring 17, along with four boards and one steal. Norl would also score in the double digits with 16 points. Jackson would shoot six of nine from the field and a whopping 80 percent from the 3-point line. KJ Robinson would shoot a perfect three for three from the arc and would add a rebound and three assists to the effort.
“It’s hard watching your brothers out there battle and battle and battle and not come away with the win,” Mitch Hahn said. While acknowledging that he didn’t play his best tonight, shooting two for 14 and missing all eight attempts from beyond the arc, he was happy to be back. “Our minutes were much better,” said Hansen on Hahn’s return. While Hahn missed most of his shots, he grabbed five rebounds.
This was Omaha’s first home game of the season after surrendering their home turf to the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials. Only three more home games remain on the docket for the non-conference schedule.
Ayo Akinwole, the freshman from Papillion-La Vista, made waves as he stole the ball three times from the bench. He would score three points but give five assists. Hahn acknowledged that Akinwole had been “thrown into the fire,” but was pleased with the result. Matt Pile also performed well with six boards, nine points and three assists. He shot 80 percent from the field, overall.
Omaha continues another road trip. After their Sunday game against Washington in Seattle, they face UC Santa Barbara Dec. 5 and face Drake again Dec. 9 before returning home to square off against Arkansas State and Cornell College. Omaha will only play two more non-conference games, which are against Kansas and Montana State, before beginning their conference schedule.