It was the “worst-case scenario” kind of news. The news that a coach has nightmares about.
Just an hour before a young Omaha team seeking its first conference win took the tipoff, star guard Ellie Brecht “tweaked” her knee during the pregame shootaround. She would be out for the night. The Mavericks would start only three guards instead of the normal four, changing the entire strategy for the game.
Many teams, had they been placed in a comparable situation, might have considered giving up after fighting this hard, all for five conference losses, on top of losing their star player on the night of a very winnable matchup. However, Omaha had other plans, beating the Bison by a score of 80 to 67.
“I don’t think it was too big of an adjustment,” said Alicia Mountain, after having made her first start of the season – and not missing a single shot all night, shooting five for five from the field. “She has the right mindset,” said coach Brittany Lange afterwards. “That mindset is really changing things around for us.”
The Bison broke out on an early run, leading by a score of 17 to 5 near the end of the first quarter; however, the Mavericks returned the favor with an 11-0 run to end the first half, followed by an opening 8-0 run to start the second – a total of 19 straight points to bring the score up to 49-35. The game then continued with a similar margin between the two teams.
“We definitely needed it,” said Amber Vidal about the victory. “You gotta keep throwing it down… making sure they don’t get back up.” “It’s kind of what we do right now,” quipped Lange.
Vidal, making her fifth 20-point appearance this season, picked up six assists from the bench as well. Four Mavs were in double-digits, including Jess Walter (19), Mountain (12, a career-high), and Killian (11). Emily Dewey led the team in three steals, while Walter and Courtney Vaccher each picked up eight boards (a career best for Walter).
Overall, Omaha dominated the glass, picking up 38 rebounds as a team. While North Dakota State outshot the Mavs from the field and from beyond the 3-point line, UNO stole the ball 10 times, as well as blocking it three times. The home team scored 11 second-chance points to NDSU’s seven, and 10 fast break points to NDSU’s two. Omaha’s bench also scored nine points more than North Dakota State’s bench.
North Dakota State’s Reilly Jacobson led the Bisons in scoring with 18 points, followed by Rylee Nudell with 13. The team managed seven steals, 23 assists (10 more than the Mavericks) and 26 rebounds. Macey Kvilvang ended the game with a phenominal five blocks.
On Feb. 3, Omaha will get another shot against South Dakota State after falling to the Jackrabbits by 25 points earlier this season. The game is one of seven remaining on the team’s schedule this season before the conference tournament. It will be broadcast on 1180 AM Zone 2.