By Max Garvey, Contributor
Just as it seemed the UNO men’s basketball team was about to drop its fourth game in a row and run it’s record to 1-5, an unlikely hero stepped forward. Caleb Steffensmeier, a Mav not normally counted on to make big shots, hit a deep three to give UNO a 81-78 win over Chadron State as time expired.
Steffensmeier, a sophomore guard out of Creighton Prep has averaged just 5.2 points a game in the Mavs first six contests. But on Saturday Steffensmeier tied his career mark with 12 points against the Eagles and made perhaps the biggest shot of his young career.
On an inbounds from center court, Steffensmeier received a pass with 5.8 seconds remaining and dribbled up the middle of the court. With few passing options, Steffensmeier pulled up nine feet deep from the three-point line and let go a prayer.
That prayer was answered, and the shot went through the bottom of the net as the buzzer went off. The UNO bench exploded.
Teammates Mitch Albers and Bill Freeman embraced Steffensmeier and pulled him down the court in celebration. It was a feeling the Mavs hadn’t had since a win over Concordia 12 days earlier.
The team lost all three of its Summit League games on their first true road stint. There were heart-breaking losses at UMKC 77-74, and South Dakota 83-81. The trip ended with a 98-65 humbling at the hands of North Dakota State.
UNO returned home Saturday afternoon for a game with in-state opponent Chadron State. After three contests with Division-I competition, UNO stepped down to D-II against Chadron State.
Regardless of the level of competition, the Eagles came into the Sapp and gave the Mavs everything they had.
Chadron State led most of the first half and put UNO in a deficit as large as 12 with 5:36 remaining. As the two teams headed to the locker room, the Eagles had a 46-38 lead.
Chadron State again got up by as much as 12 early in the second half, but the Mavs began to cut into the lead and used a 17-4 run to go ahead 58-57 with 12:10 remaining. Neither team led by more than four the rest of the game.
With the score tied 78-78, freshman guard C.J. Carter blocked a shot with 16 seconds remaining, giving UNO an opportunity to finish the game with a chance to win. Steffensmeier’s shot went in and the Mavs improved to 2-4 on the season.
Along with Steffensmeier’s career-high-tying 12 points, he also added a career-high seven assists, contributed two rebounds and a steal. Senior guard Mitch Albers led the team with 20 points, added four rebounds, five assists, and a couple of steals.
Sophomore center John Karhoff achieved a career-high 19 points, knocking down 9-for-12 from the field with six rebounds and two blocked shots.
In addition to the block that set up the chance for Steffensmeier, Carter scored 12 points, had five assists, five rebounds and 2 steals.
As a team UNO shot 54.7 percent, 23.1 percent from long range and 53 percent from the free throw line. Coming off of the bench, Junior Bill Freeman led the squad in rebounds with seven.