It hasn’t been the start anybody on the Omaha men’s basketball team wanted for this season. Coming into the weekend at 2-10 overall and 0-2 in conference play, the Mavericks traveled to Fargo in search of their first Summit League win. That win will have to wait, as Omaha fell just short against North Dakota State.
The Bison, who were fresh off a series sweep over Western Illinois, now sit tied at the top of the Summit League standings at 4-0 following the games against Omaha.
Game one got off to a quick start, thanks to a pair of buckets from Wanjang Tut and
Marlon Ruffin within the first minute of play. It would be nearly three minutes until the
Mavericks got their next points. Senior Ayo Akinwole hit a jumper to grab the lead back at 8-6, but once again, both teams struggled to drain their shots.
Grant Nelson hit a jump shot for the Bison with 15:07 left in the first half and it was nearly another three minutes until Sam Griesel laid a ball off the glass to push North Dakota State to a 13-11 lead.
From there, Omaha continued to search for offense and the Bison found their groove. NDSU went on a 17-4 run after the Griesel layup. The Mavericks were able to stop the bleeding, however, as Matt Pile recorded a pair of buckets in the final 60 seconds of the first half. Those points sent Omaha into the break trailing by 10.
A second half charge lead by Tut brought Omaha back within fighting distance for most
of the final 20 minutes. With 1:41 to go in the game, a technical foul on NDSU’s Jarius Cook sent Akinwole to the line. Akinwole hit both free throws and a Ruffin 3-pointer brought Omaha within seven.
That run set up an interesting final minutes and just like the start of the half, Tut found himself in the middle of the action. Tut was fouled on a shot he made and also made his free throw attempt, trimming the deficit to four. He made two more layups in the final minute, the latter tied the game at 69 with just 11 seconds remaining.
As he was all night long, Griesel was a thorn in the Mavericks side and the last possession proved no different. Griesel dribbled the ball up the court himself and sank a 13-footer in the dying seconds to give the Bison a 71-69 win.
Despite the loss, Tut set a career-high in points with 31. The senior finished 14-for-19 shooting and also grabbed four rebounds.
Saturday evening was a different tale. The Mavericks led for a good chunk of the first half, but NDSU slowly started to pull away as they inched towards halftime and took control in the second half, eventually coming away with a 80-66 win.
Ruffin led Omaha in game two with 14 points, nine of those coming from beyond the arc.
This weekend’s home series against South Dakota State was cancelled in cohesion to the Summit League’s COVID-19 protocols and the games will not be made up. Omaha’s next scheduled contests are Jan. 29 and 30 against South Dakota in Vermillion.