Being an Omaha Maverick basketball fan is starting to become an ordeal of survival of the fittest.
Those fans with weak hearts may have had a hard time getting by this season with all the come-back attempts and buzzer beaters that the Mavericks have forced them through.
Monday night may have then proven to be the final nail in the coffin for some of those fans.
Playing against the Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons on Monday, a trip to the Summit League finals was on the line, as well as a possible berth in the NCAA March Madness tournament. For both teams, the stakes could not have been higher and as the game clock wore down, the score could not have been closer.
At the end of the first half, the Mavericks had a 37 to 30 lead, thanks in part to an 11-0 run early in the half. Aside from that run by the Mavericks, both teams had traded buckets fairly evenly throughout the half.
The second half saw that parity only increase. Over the course of the second half, several big plays helped the Mastodon’s pull themselves back into the game. The Mastodons finally took the lead in the game with 9 minutes left to play. After that change, the Mavericks and the Mastodons went back and forth for the rest of the game.
Then, with 3:13 left to play in the game, Omaha’s Mitch Hahn buried a corner three-pointer to give Omaha a 61-60 lead. What followed after that was three minutes of the most heart stopping moments in Omaha basketball history.
On the next possession, Hahn stripped Purdue Fort Wayne’s Kason Harrell of the ball and took it down the court and was hoping to score, but instead was promptly blocked. It appeared that there was good deal of contact on the block, but no foul was called. The score remained 61-60.
After that block, the Mastodons looked to score on the fast break. A pass from Purdue Fort Wayne’s John Konchar hit off the hands of his teammate Matt Weir and went out of bound for an unforced turnover. The score remained 61-60.
Then, with under a minute left to play, Hahn was stripped of the ball over and Purdue Fort Wayne was on the fast break again. Their initial layup was a blocked, and the put back attempt got stuck between the rim of the hoop and the backboard. A jump ball was called and Omaha got the ball back. The score remained 61-60.
Finally, after the ensuing Omaha possession went scoreless, Purdue Fort Wayne had the ball back with a chance to hit a buzzer beater to win. With time winding down, the ball found itself in the hands of Konchar, one of the Summit League’s best players and perhaps one of college basketball’s best players. His three pointer effort went up, went back down, and missed. The score remained 61-60.
Omaha fans who had not passed away of coronary failure could breathe again. The Mavericks were going to the Summit League title game.
Clearly, this was not the easiest of wins for the Mavericks and all the stats seemed to have indicated that this is a game that Omaha should have lost.
On the evening, Omaha was outrebounded 35 to 32. They only had six bench points to Purdue Fort Wayne’s 14. Perhaps the biggest number of the night though was the amount of turnovers the team had. Omaha had 17 to Purdue Fort Wayne’s 16.
This was particularly surprising from a team that averages only 9.3 turnovers per game.
“It’s always frustrating, getting turned over that many times,” said Hahn after the game. “But you’ve got to look at it both ways. We turned them over 16 times.”
It did seem that for any bad plays that were made, there was a response from the Mavericks that kept the team going.
“[Purdue Fort Wayne] made some big shots in the second half to go up, [Omaha] made some big shots to go back up,” coach Derrin Hansen said after the game. “I’m so proud of our team, I’m so proud of our locker room, I’m proud of the way our seniors have led us.”
Now, the attention for Omaha basketball turns to the Summit League championship. There, the Mavericks will play the North Dakota State Bison.
The Bison are no strangers to this game. They’ve won this three times before. Omaha, on the other hand, will be looking to make history and earn the school’s first ever postseason bid.
That game will tip off in Sioux Falls at 8 p.m. The game can be viewed on ESPN2 or on the radio on 1180 The Zone 2.