On Wednesday Feb. 26 at Baxter Arena, fans were treated to just about anything they could have asked for: a fast-paced, high-percentage shooting game filled with buzzer beaters, drama and 16 lead changes.
The Omaha Mavericks and the North Dakota Fighting Hawks walked onto the court only separated by one game in the Summit League standings. Both teams were looking to improve their potential seeding heading into the conference tournament next weekend.
Just four minutes into the contest, junior big-man Matt Pile picked up his second foul and spent the rest of the half on the bench. Fellow forward Wanjang Tut picked up the slack in place of Pile, blocking three North Dakota shots before the second media timeout. Tut finished the game going 8-11 from the field, with 19 points, four blocks and six rebounds.
Both teams came out shooting, and for the most part both teams were hitting, too. North Dakota’s Kienan Walker and Marlon Stewart were the top performers of the night for the Fighting Hawks. Both players combined to shoot 17 three-point attempts in the game, while Omaha shot 14 for the night.
The beginning of the second half was the start of the Pile show. In the first five minutes, he tallied eight points but picked up fouls number three and four quickly and headed back to the bench. North Dakota forward Filip Rebraca took advantage of Pile’s untimely absences and earned himself a double-double when the night was over, finishing with 24 points and 13 rebounds.
Pile’s foul trouble opened up the door for other Mavericks to make an impact. Marlon Ruffin came off the bench and scored 18, and JT Gibson totaled 15.
A deep three-pointer from senior KJ Robinson with six seconds left sent the game into overtime, knotted up at 73. North Dakota did their best to pull away but an Ayo Akinwole big-time three gave the Mavericks the lead again with 28 seconds left in the extra period. Stewart answered for North Dakota as he scored a layup only seconds after, shifting the score in favor of the Hawks with 17 seconds remaining.
Robinson played hero once again, but this time drove through the lane and laid in the game-winner with five seconds left—giving Omaha the hard fought 84-83 win.
The Mavericks have now won four games in a row and improved to 9-6 in the Summit League. Omaha is now tied with South Dakota for third place in the conference. They will hit the road for the last game of the regular season Saturday night in Fargo, North Dakota, taking on the Bison of North Dakota State.